But the Hornets hitting the mats this winter have a whole different feel than the grapplers that finished 14th in the state last February, and according to head coach Evan Goff, that isn’t a bad thing.
“This team has totally re-defined itself,” said Goff, now in his fifth year at Roswell and third at the head of the program. “We are not the same squad we were a year ago. Our team chemistry is better than its ever been and we have created a system and attitude in the practice room that I feel will produce success.
“We’ve had some changes [to the roster] but I don’t think we’ve lost a step, in fact, we’ve become stronger as a team.”
Changes include the loss of 160-pound state champion Corey Wilson from the lineup and the departure of freshman state qualifier Isaiah Hawkins. But with two of seven gone, Goff can lean on the strength of five wrestlers with extensive state tournament experience, including four seniors — Brennen Ninesling, Mike Willis, Andrew Kwateng and Hunter Hill.
Ninesling, who qualified state last year at 106 pounds, is a perfect 8-0 on the young season at the 113-pound weight class and the unquestioned leader of the Roswell team.
“I have given Brennan reigns to the program,” said Goff of his star senior. “He is a natural born leader, his work ethic is unmatched and he is twice the wrestler from last year.”
In addition to the four seniors, junior Charles Routt, a state-qualifier at 132 pounds, returns to a lineup that will be tested by a rock-solid region 5AAAAAA in January and February.
To date Roswell is 5-1 this season in dual meets, including wins over region foes Cherokee and Woodstock.
“Nothing is decided this early in the year [and] we’ll continue to develop over the course of the season. After we get kids into the right weights and a couple of guys that are missing get back into our lineup, I feel we will quietly sneak up to where we want to be.”
Roswell will get their first look at region rival Etowah in a dual meet tonight.