Viera wrestling optimistic about this season


Three reasons for the optimism around the Viera High wrestling program this year are, from left, Darius Darr, Jonathan Conlan and Chase Vollenweider. The three are returning regional qualifiers from last year.

Carl Kotala

Four little words describe the feeling around the Viera High wrestling program these days:

Things are looking up.

“Last year, since we only had three returning varsity kids … that was our rebuilding year,” Viera senior Chase Vollenweider said. “This year, I’m thinking we’re going to do pretty well.”

Vollenweider, who will wrestle at 113 pounds, is a big reason for that optimism because he, junior Darius Darr (120) and sophomore Jonathan Conlin (132) are all returning regional qualifiers from last season.

That trio will form a strong core for the Hawks, along with other key wrestlers such as Caleb Harris (145), Parker McFarland (138), Ammon Delop (152), Mike Brunotte (160) and Josh Henderson (170).

“Those are the guys that I think will get us a lot of points during the dual matches,” Hawks coach Jim Gentile said. “You can win tournaments with eight guys. I’m not saying we’re going to win conference, but I know if we work with those eight guys, everybody else in the room is going to get better.”

Because the FHSAA pushed the start of wrestling season back a month, the Hawks did not see their first action of the season until the Barbara Pill Memorial event at Bayside High in early December.

Vollenweider finished second at that event. Darr was fourth while McFarland and Harris both finished sixth.

It was a solid start for Viera, which endured a tough 2013-14 season in which no wrestler qualified for the state meet.

Vollenweider wants to change that, and he has certainly put in the work preparing for his senior campaign, wrestling 75 matches in the offseason.

“I went to every tournament I could every weekend,” he said. “And if there wasn’t a tournament, I was usually working out on my own.”

The result is that not only does Vollenweider feel more confident from the bottom position — an area he targeted for improvement — but his confidence level has grown from last season.

“(It’s a) little higher since I know what I put into the effort,” he said. “I believe if I do give 100 percent every match, I think I’m going to do pretty good this season.”

The Hawks compete in Class 3A, which means they are facing some of the biggest and best programs in the state. However, Gentile believes Vollenweider and Darr are among the Hawks who have a good chance of getting out of regionals this season.

Yep, things are looking up.

“We have a lot of new guys this year,” Vollenweider said. “They’ve been putting in the work and effort (since) the season started. We’re looking pretty good right now. If they keep doing what they’re doing, they’re going to do good (this) season.”