We still have some All-State football selections to be announced, but for now it’s time to get into full winter sports mode.
It starts on Monday when the McPherson High Winter Preview is conducted at the Roundhouse. All teams will be announced starting at 6:05 p.m., there will be wrestling and basketball scrimmages, not to mention important parents meetings.
Practice for all sports, except for bowling which doesn’t get going until December, began last week. MHS boys basketball coach Kurt Kinnamon had to go through his first week without two-thirds of his varsity and remember, two of the first three games of the year are against potential state champions Derby in Class 6A and Miege in 4A Division I, as the Stags are seeking a 3-peat.
Here’s a brief look at what to expect this winter:
• Girls basketball — Chris Strathman’s team suffered a big blow this summer when University of Texas-San Antonio signee Mandi Cooks suffered a torn Achilles.
Cooks has been working tirelessly on rehab, but anything she can contribute later in the season would only be considered a bonus. On her signing day she said her doctors were encouraged by her progress, but a best-case scenario would be a February return, if at all.
Fortunately, 10 of 12 players on Strathman's state runner-up team from last year were underclassmen and one of those is the best player in all the land, Oklahoma University signee Taylor Robertson.
Like the boys, the Bullpup girls could very well be playing two teams that will be in the state finals when they take on Derby (and 6-6 center Kennedy Brown, who is being recruited from coast-to-coast) and Miege (lots of returnees and no doubt some new players have been added).
• Boys basketball — Kinnamon may indeed be behind the 8-ball early since the football players on his team got a late start, but his top three returning scorers — Ben Pyle, Mason Alexander and Jake Alexander — have been going since Day One.
Kinnamon’s 12-man state team returns intact, so I don’t expect any changes this season. All of his players are a year older and a year better, not to mention a year stronger. If this team plays with passion on the boards and doesn’t play soft, it should be a monstrous rebounding team. There’s a lot of height and length and it will have so many ways it can beat teams.
• Wrestling — Coach Doug Kretzer told me he has his largest team ever as the practice room is close to full.
Kretzer lost state champion Austin Eldredge to graduation, but has a host of potential state qualifiers back, including Rhett Edmonson, a state runner-up last year. The Bullpups will be especially strong in the bottom half of their lineup and this could be Kretzer’s best team in a long time.
• Boys swimming — Matt Morrow has filled the YMCA with swimmers during practice as he, too, has his biggest team.
Morrow has to replace do-everything Eric Gaeddert, one of the top swimmers in school history. Like Kretzer, though, he has many state qualifiers back. Even though his team was 10th in the state last year, Morrow was named the Class 5-1A Coach of the Year as his peers recognize the job he does even though his squad size is dwarfed by a lot of schools.
• Bowling — Now that Starlite Lanes is back open and the Bullpups have a home, look for them to have their usual successful season.
Coach Herb Halinski hasn’t had tryouts yet, but I do know he believes he’ll have a good boys team, while the girls team is rebuilding. The youth program at Starlite Lanes continually produces top bowlers and keeps the team at a high level.