By Adam Altobella
The plastic Indiana-shaped banners are the primary focal point of Delta’s gymnasium as they never fail to capture the crowd’s attention. They stand as a reminder of the blood, sweat, and tears of successful teams of the past and as a piece of motivation for Eagles who are currently in the nest.
With five consecutive state titles in the 1980s, the wrestling squad has earned the most state championships of any sport in school history.
Although last year wasn’t a state championship campaign like the program has experienced in the past, it was certainly nothing to be disappointed about. Last season saw the program’s fifth straight county title, the program’s 18th overall sectional title, and a runner-up performance at the Jay County Regional meet.
In addition to last season’s collective success, multiple Eagles soared to great heights in individual competitions. Last year, seven Eagle grapplers won their respective weight classes in the sectional meet, and four advanced to the semi-state round of the individual tournament.
Of the seven wrestlers that were victorious in last season’s Delta Sectional, junior Dillon Tuttle and senior Lucas Fox will be returning for this year’s campaign. Although some of the same faces from last season will be returning, there is one major aspect that will be different for the program this year: the head coach.
Following Coach Gary Schliessman’s resignation in July, Joe Mosier, an experienced youth wrestling coach, was hired to fill the void.
“I am expecting a very fun and exciting season,” Mosier said. “I am looking forward to working with our wrestlers and watching them improve the season.
Unlike many other first-year head coaches, Mosier has rather ambitious goals for this upcoming season and is quite confident in his wrestler’s abilities.
“We are still expecting to compete at a high level,” Mosier said. “Our goal is to go undefeated in dual competition, send all 14 starters to the regionals, seven athletes to semi-state, and have five state qualifiers.”
With those goals in mind, Mosier believes that his team’s biggest strength will be its depth, which he believes can be attributed to the program’s feeder system. Mosier believes that the large group of athletes will not only provide for a strong varsity line up, but also the opportunity for quality practice sessions.
On the other hand, Mosier believes that the squad’s biggest weakness will lie in its inexperience. Last season saw the graduation of multiple star wrestlers such as John Robinson and Payne Blackburn. As a result, the squad is left with few upperclassmen.
“We don’t have a large group of upperclassmen, but the underclassmen that we do have will bring great leadership and experience to the team,” Mosier said.
He added: “We have several underclassmen that have been working hard and will be eager to contribute as well.”
The two upperclassmen that Mosier was referring to earlier are Hayden Licht and Lucas Fox, the team’s lone pair of seniors. Last season, Fox was a sectional champion, a county champion, and a runner-up in the Hoosier Heritage Conference at 160 pounds. The squad’s other senior, Licht, returns after a successful varsity campaign at the 182-pound weight class. As mentioned previously, Licht and Fox are not only expected to contribute on the mat, but also as leaders off the mat.
The squad will embark on its 2020-21 campaign at the Elwood Invitational on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at Elwood High School. Following the initial meet of the season, the Eagles’ regular season schedule will showcase a dual meet against the Yorktown Tigers on Dec. 7, and the Delta Duals Invite on Dec. 12. Following the conclusion of the regular season, the squad will begin their postseason journey with the sectional on Jan. 30 at home.
Despite all of the changes throughout the years, the Delta wrestling program is still one of the premier programs in school history. If all things go as planned in the upcoming seasons, the Eagles have the potential to put more Indiana-shaped banners on the gymnasium wall.