This weekend will be a busy one for Powell High School athletics, as the winter sports season kicks off with home contests for every team with the exception of boys’ and girls’ basketball.
But no event will be bigger than the Powell Wrestling Invitational, with 17 schools descending on the PHS gym Friday and Saturday. The Panthers will look to defend their title, having won the event last year.
“The Powell Invitational has been going on a long time,” said Panther head coach Nate Urbach. “We’ll have pool wrestling Friday, so everyone will have about four matches for the most part. If you’ve done well Friday, you’ll get to compete in the tournament round Saturday, where each wrestler will get another three matches. A lot of kids will get seven matches this weekend.”
Now in his 15th season of coaching the Panthers, Urbach said the team of about 25 kids is a solid mix of returning experience and young talent. The team is coming off a fourth-place finish at state, and the longtime coach said he’d like to see the team perform as well or better this season.
“We’re looking pretty good. We’ll see,” he said. “We have a couple of returning state champs, some medalists. We’ve got a lot of kids that were young last year that need to take big steps this year. That’s what I’m looking at seeing.”
Returning to the Panthers are a pair of state champions: Senior Reese Karst, who won the title at 138 pounds, and junior Brody Karhu, the defending champ at 152 pounds. The pair will be joined by junior Bo Dearcorn, who finished third at state at 170 pounds, and sophomore Emma Karhu, who became the first female to earn a medal in Class 3A wrestling with a fifth-place finish at 106 pounds.
“Bo Dearcorn, who was third for us last year and fifth the year before, he’ll be tough this year,” Urbach said. “Emma Karhu was fifth at 106, she’ll be one to watch. Michael Maddox was sixth the year before last; he didn’t place last year, but he’s ready to go. And we’ve got lots of other guys I’m hoping are going to shine.”
This year’s team features 11 juniors on the roster, with Urbach calling them “a good class, pretty motivated, pretty good kids.” The underclassmen he labeled as not having a lot of experience, though what they lack in that category, they make up for in drive and hard work.
“[The Powell Invite] is coming at the right time; these guys need some competition,” he said. “It gets boring beating each other up in practice, so they’re ready to beat somebody else up.”
As for any early injuries, Urbach said the team is healthy for the most part, and should go into the weekend’s tournament strong.
“There’s always bumps and bruises in wrestling; you’re never 100 percent if you’re going hard,” he said. “But there’s nothing to worry about at this point.”
As for expectations heading into the weekend and beyond, Urbach said he’s optimistic.
“I’ve got high expectations, but I always have high expectations,” he said. “But the big things you want to see is see kids improve. I want to see them improve, I want to see them be good teammates, I want to see them be good people. And I want to see them compete and get after it, not shy away from the battles. Last year, we tended to not improve as much over time as I would have liked. So that’s something I really want to get better at this year.”