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P.O. Wrestling Coach of the Year: Dan Craig

Dan Craig walked into a good situation as the Waynesboro wrestling coach.

He had been a volunteer last year under Eric Mowen, so he knew his wrestlers. And he had 10 solid returning starters and a couple of very promising freshmen to build a team around.

So the 13-4 record the Indians produced in 2015-16 sounds pretty good.

But what it took to get to that record is a big reason why Craig is the Public Opinion Wrestling Coach of the Year.

Of those 10 returners and two newcomers, only five wrestled the whole season. The other seven, plus at least one of the wrestlers expected to fill one of the open weights, spent time out of the lineup with injuries. In fact, Kody Brown wrestled in only two bouts all year. Austin Wise missed about two thirds of the season. Ryan Neff was around for only the second half.  All three were expected to have big seasons this year.

In all, 23 different Waynesboro kids saw varsity action, the most in the area.

Craig said, "We had a lot of kids with injuries - some came into the season with them and some got hurt during the season. A couple of guys had football injuries. One guy missed some matches because he couldn't get down to weight. Our heavyweight (Shawn Robinson) missed some time when he was in an engine building competition."

Yet the Indians came within a whisker of qualifying for the District 3 Class AAA team championships - 16 teams made it, and 'Boro was 17th.

"What really hurt us was the Elizabethtown duals tournament, when we went 3-2 when we had about 10 guys out," Craig said. "We gave up three forfeits and lost by 20 points to Milton Hershey, and we wrestled them later and beat them 51-15."

Waynesboro was a team without a star - it pushed six kids into the District 3 tournament, but went 0-12 - but didn't have many holes when the lineup was complete.

Craig said, "We have a very large group of seniors we lose this year (14 of the team's 23 wrestlers), but we had a big group of freshmen this year, too. We kept some up on varsity, but even in the group we didn't bring up there are some good kids. Good programs seem to have one or two stars that the other kids look up to, but that hasn't been the case at Waynesboro recently.

"But I've been working with the youth group and I think there should be a lot of opportunities over the next 10 years or so (for somebody to break out). Laken Rouzer (a freshman this year) had 27 wins and 18 pins. I know that's the most wins for a freshman at Waynesboro and might be a record for pins for a freshman, too."

Getting pins was a big part of the Indians' success this year. The team racked up 220 pins, which translates to over 15 pins per weight class.

Craig said, "I want our style to be attack, attack and never give up, and we want to be aggressive on top and finish our pins. We worked hard on technique. I hate to see a guy win by one point when he's just hanging on at the end; we want him to constantly try to improve his position. And we have those type of kids."

Those kids will try to give Craig an encore performance next year.