Mat Cats open season with high hopes

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By John Herndon

It was not an easy decision for David Lannum to leave his hometown to coach wrestling at Anderson County High School.


“It was very tough,” the new Mat Cat coach said last week. “I was born and raised in Danville. I wrestled in Danville. My son has wrestled on the varsity level at Danville since the seventh grade. He's a senior at Danville (High School) this year.”

But Lannum, who had been coaching the Admirals for many years, also knew he had a chance to build something special at Anderson County. He accepted the offer to take over for Graham Carlton, who elected to give up coaching to spend more time with his family.

“Actually, I have trained some of the Anderson County guys over the summers,” Lannum said, before naming off several former Mat Cats. “T.W. (Stockton), Zack Perry, Gabe McMichael, Travis Kaelin. All of them worked with me in the summer. I knew a lot of the kids from tournaments and I knew a strong foundation was here.”

Known as being a ball of energy when his Admirals were on the mat, Lannum brings that same kind of intensity to Anderson County.

“He is very animated,” says senior Chris McDaniel. “He is not laid back whatsoever. He gets on our butts and he keeps us on track. There is no day when we come in here and think it is going to be an easy day. He breaks us down, but then he builds us right back up. He is very encouraging.”

Which is also a way to describe Anderson County's outlook on the 2013-14 season, which officially opens Saturday at the Bryan Station Duals.

“I have high expectations,” Lannum says. “I want to be no lower than 25th in the state (tournament) as far as the team is concerned.”

A year ago, Anderson had what might have been considered a disappointing finish at the state tournament. Only four Bearcats qualified for the state and none were still around when the competition moved into the medal round. Two of those qualifiers, Alex Swartz (160 pounds) and McMichael (182), have graduated.

Cody Dillow returns at 152. Crockett Cosby, who qualified for the state at 285 pounds, was still playing football at press time, but is expected to return to the mat as well.

“Last year, we had a few flukes,” Dillow said of the regional tournament, where Anderson had placed second as a team the year before. “(Taylor) Logsdon got a concussion the first day and couldn't wrestle.”

McDaniel also had a subpar day. “I lost to someone I had beaten twice before in the regional semifinals,” he said. “Then, I lost to someone else I had beaten before. I just had a bad day.”

The Mat Cats are determined to change that outcome, despite moving to a new region this year. The good news for the Bearcats is that perennial power LaRue County is no longer a regional opponent. The bad news is that Woodford County, arguably the most dominant name in Kentucky high school wrestling, is.

“They are always solid,” Lannum says. “The Oldham County schools (also in the new region) have some strong wrestlers too, but it pretty much evens out. I think we will be about the same.”

McDaniel, Dillow and Tucker Pridemore, all seniors, are expected to be among the Bearcats' best. McDaniel is working out at 138 pounds, while Dillow is hitting the mat at 152. Pridemore is expected to go at 170.

“As captains, it is our responsibility to keep everybody motivated,” Dillow says.

But that won't be an issue with Lannum, who is non-stop action during a practice. The Bearcats remember him as being the same way in matches.

“I knew him pretty well before he came here to coach,” Dillow said. “I got to know him and his whole team very well. I like him.”

And Lannum likes his new team.

“We are struggling some in the lower weight classes,” Lannum says of the 106, 113 and 120-pound categories.

When Carlton told the team he was giving up his coaching duties at the team awards banquet last year, there was some concern over who might come in to take over a program that has been consistently good over the last 10 years or so, but has never been able to crack the top echelon of the sport.

If anything, Lannum brings a burning passion to the sport he loves. “I eat, breathe and sleep wrestling,” Lannum says with a big smile.

And the Bearcats hope that passion carries over to a big year.

“I feel like we can do good this year,” Dillow said. “We had a good coach last year and we have a good coach this year.”

“I think we are going to have an amazing year,” Pridmore adds. “Everybody has a very good work ethic.”

McDaniel, however, also wants some tangible results. “For me individually, anything short of a medal at the state would be very disappointing,” he says. “Anything less than one or two trophies for the geam would be disappointing.”

No one said life on the mat was easy.


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