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Ramstein on a roll before mats packed up for holiday break

Lakenheath's Jacob Brown, left, takes Ramstein's Xavier Woodard to the mat during a match at Vogelweh, Germany, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.

MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 9, 2017

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- At this early juncture of the 2017-18 DODEA-Europe wrestling season, many wrestlers are still in the beginning stages of their learning process. But that’s not necessarily as ominous as it sounds. 

“We have to spend a lot of time showing basic technique,” Kaiserslautern coach Chris Kelly said. “The benefit of that is basics is what works.”

Seven schools met in Kaiserslautern to further their efforts Saturday, the second weekend of the regular season and the last before the month-long DODEA-Europe holiday break. Regular-season competition resumes Jan. 13, leading up to the European championship meet Feb. 16- 17 at Wiesbaden, Germany.

Programs hoping to make an impact at that final meet are busily laying the groundwork now, developing their least experienced charges in hopes of filling the weight classes with viable, competitive grapplers.

“We have a lot of first-year wrestlers again this year, so it’s a lot of basics and learning and development,” Ramstein coach Thomas Wright said. “We’re creating depth.”

While Wright is drawing from a robust Royals roster of 68, host Kaiserslautern has a much thinner margin for error. The Raiders fielded a team of 11 on Saturday.

“Trying to get a lot of mat time for the young guys,” Kelly said. “That way they can be aware of what’s going on.”

Kaiserslautern’s low numbers contribute to a heightened sense of urgency for the program. If the Raiders are to be relevant at the European championship meet, their unproven wrestlers need to prove themselves quickly.

“They’re going to have to step their game up,” Kelly said. “They’re going to have to be productive as soon as they get in.”

While their depth remains largely theoretical, the Raiders are strong at the top of their roster. Conner Mackie (120 pounds), Andrew Wells (160), Hunter Wiles (195) and Royce Staley (220) each took first place in their respective class Saturday.

Ramstein’s numbers advantage, however, delivered it a decisive team victory with 291.5 points, aided by seven first-place finishes ranging from Andres Hart at 106 pounds to Russell Bodliy at 138 to heavyweight Caleb Love. Kaiserslautern finished second at 132.5, while Lakenheath ranked third with 80 points and SHAPE scored 66.5 points to claim fourth. Small schools Spangdahlem, Baumholder and Alconbury rounded out the team scoring.

Lakenheath’s Nick Scifo embodied some of the challenges facing wrestlers at this early point of the season.

“I’m just trying to get some experience under my belt.” Scifo said. “I’m feeling it out right now, seeing where I stand.”

Scifo competed in the 182-pound bracket Saturday, finishing second to Ramstein’s Ayden Kemp, but he hopes to get down to the 160-pound bracket in time for the postseason. As he tries to “safely” drop the pounds under the direction of his father, a longtime wrestler, Scifo is also planning ahead for the stylistic changes that will be necessary should he successfully switch classes.

“The matches, they pick up in pace” at the lower weight classes, Scifo said. “They won’t be as strong as the guys I’m wrestling now, but they’ll be a whole lot faster.”

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

Ramstein's Ty Hoopes, left, tries to take SHAPE's Chris Davidson down during a match at Vogelweh, Germany, on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.
MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

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