The Liberty North wrestling team has been one of the top programs the past two seasons under former coach Lance Moore.
During the 2022-23 season, the Eagles finished 10th as a team in the Class 4 state tournament and had one state champion, four medalists and seven qualifiers.
Moore stepped down as head coach and now Derek Strickland takes over as he was promoted after being an assistant and he will look to rebuild a program that lost five seniors, including four who were state qualifiers.
“It’s exciting, we’re on Day 2,” Strickland said last Tuesday. “We have incorporated the girls in the room, too, and that has been a big goal. We have a lot of returners and we are excited to get things going.”
Watch Liberty North Interviews:
Despite losing some key pieces, Strickland and his boys team could make some noise during the regular season.
“I think a lot of people think we could come up short because we lost a lot of guys from last year,” senior James Lovelady said. “But we are still building the team and pushing to be the best that we can be.
Junior Elmotie Williams, who is in the 285-pound weight class, will be a key piece coming back for the Eagles. After qualifying for state but not getting a medal as a freshman, he took a big leap and became a state champion last season after pinning Liberty’s Trenton Bindel with 2 seconds left in the match in the finals.
He ended his season with a 44-5 record and established himself as a sop heavy weight.
“It was all about him getting in the room,” Strickland said.”He put in a great effort there. That helped him get the gas tank he needed to compete in the heavyweight division.”
Senior James Lovelady is someone who has a good amount of experience coming into the new season as he is a two-time state qualifier. Last season, he made it to the state tournament but went 1-2.
This season, he will be looking to get his first state medal.
“The goal is to win anything and everything,” Lovelady said. “That is the goal, always.”
Dru Thomas is entering his senior season and will try to earn his first state tournament appearance. Earlier this year, he went 1-2 in the Class 4 District 4 tournament as he was unable to qualify. He still had a solid record at 29-17 and he said he wants to take that next step forward.
“The goal this year is to make the podium at every tournament and when I get to state, the goal is to get on that podium,” Thomas said. “I have been working on cleaning up moves I already use over the summer, moves I don’t normally hit and expanding my arsenal.”
Some of the other returning wrestlers from last season’s squad are Macon Oliver, Alec Taylor, Braedon Taylor, Cal Buchanan and Carter Price.
Some newcomers who would crack the lineup include Brock Windship, Marcus McDowell and Nick Sanders.