The 2018-19 Lansing Lions wrestling team kicks off their season Wednesday night when they host Olathe South. Head coach Nick Flynn said it should be an “awesome dual.”

The Lions will have 35 wrestlers on this year’s team with 16 returners, including nine state qualifiers from last season with three of the nine placing at state.

The team will have five seniors. This year’s seniors are Claye Howard (138 pounds), Joseph Irwin (145 pounds), Malachi Tinnel (152 pounds), Dylan McLain (160 pounds) and Braiden McKee (heavyweight).

Flynn said the team looks good across the lineup this season.

“We are looking really good all the way up and down the lineup,” Flynn said. “I think every varsity wrestler will play a huge factor in the team’s success this year. I am really looking to my seniors to step up and mentor the younger guys. With this, I think the sky is the limit for this team. Camden Maestas, Joseph Irwin and Braiden McKee all are returning state medalists. This year, they all are planning to be on the top of the podium. I think the Lions will be bringing home a lot of hardware from the state tournament this year, possibly up to six medalists.”

The coach said practices have been “fantastic” so far as the team prepares for the first match of the season. 

“We have a pretty experienced group of guys in the room,” Flynn said. “We were able to come in on day one and get right to work. The intensity level has been through the roof. This team really wants to push themselves and get the most out of every moment they are in there. Multiple kids contact me and ask to come in early to get extra work, and stay after practice to get even more. It has been a lot of fun working with this group.”

The coach is looking forward to a handful of meets and duals, including the first dual of the year.

“Obviously I look forward to state the most,” Flynn said. “But throughout the season there are a couple meets I really enjoy. I love dualing Olathe South. They are always going to scrap hard. I really look forward to the Leavenworth dual; the rivalry always brings the best out of both teams and it makes for a fun dual. My favorite tournament that we go to is the Bobcat Classic at Basehor-Linwood High School. It is a two-day tournament and we have some of the best competition the state has to offer. It is held in January so it is a perfect time to be tested against the best and see where we are and what we need to work on. Plus it is a lot of fun watching the best guys compete against each other.”

With the season starting after Thanksgiving, making weight could have been an issue from all the food. Flynn said the team stuck to routine and that did not cause issues. He said a snow day Monday did cause issues though. 

“I don't think Thanksgiving caused us any weight issues,” he said. “We kept everything pretty routine and had another workout over the weekend. The guys who are cutting weight are pretty disciplined about their weight and are good at managing things like this. The snow day, on the other hand, does make it difficult because we are not allowed to have practice on those days. The ones who are close on weight made sure to keep their weight down and come in Tuesday morning for an extra workout.”

This season will mark the Lions’ first year in the new United Kansas Conference with Leavenworth and Basehor-Linwood. Flynn said not much will change for the team. He said the team isn’t affected by what conference they are in. He did say he likes the other programs in the UKC and looks forward to competing with them. 

“The rise in competition only betters our athletes,” Flynn said. “There is a good group of coaches who want to grow wrestling and make our area the toughest around. I love being a part of that.”

Wrestling is a sport of physical and mental exhaustion. Flynn said that the team has spent a lot of time over the past year focusing on the mental side of the sport to help the team achieve its goals and expectations.

“This past year we have really been focusing on the mental side of the sport,” Flynn said. “We take time out of every practice to talk about the mental side and how we should be approaching the task at hand mentally. We talk about vision, goals and expectations of ourselves. I think if our vision stays clear, then continuing to put in the work is no problem. Burn out from training comes from the lack of vision and loss of focus in why we are training. On the physical side of it, I break the season up into three chunks, give them scheduled time off and taper off when needed.”

Flynn said he is overall excited for this year and expects big gains.

“Overall, I am really looking forward to working with this team,” Flynn said. “They are just a great group of guys who like to work hard. Look for us to make big gains this year in the program. I am excited and I know our wrestlers are excited.”