Lemon Bay sent a large contingent to the Class 1A state wrestling tournament this past spring.

Mantas coach Mike Schyck’s desire is to make the 2020-21 season the floor, not the ceiling, for Lemon Bay’s program.

Other than state champion Lance Schyck, the state’s biggest wrestling stage proved too big for most of Lemon Bay’s state qualifiers. Experience was lacking, so Mike Schyck went to work on flipping that script.

“The more they feel they belong, the more they’ll see these tournaments are just another tournament,” he said. “My goal with a lot of activity in the spring and summer and into the season was to get them matches and get them to feel like they belong.”

The state spotlight was doubly bright for some of the Mantas, since they had only recently taken up the sport.

“When you look at the state tournament, it looks like a big to-do because they have 12 mats butted up against each other,” Schyck said. “It’s only four mats we’re wrestling on but it got too big for them, but that’s something that we can overcome. Hopefully, we will.”

Watching Lance Schyck, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, battle his way to a state title at 182, was an experience in itself.

“Caleb (Corridino) quit football because he wanted what Lance got,” Schyck said. “The impact on Chase (Alden) and Justin Brady, these guys who have good relationships with Lance, they see that. Yeah, the ripple effect is great.”

Logan Kelly (120), Brycen Warren (126), Brady (132), Corridino (145), Austin Werden (152) and Alden (170) all return as state qualifiers alongside Lance Schyck, giving the Mantas a sturdy foundation to build this season’s squad.

Koen Hoffman, a two-time state qualifier who placed fourth in Class 2A this past season at Port Charlotte, transferred to Lemon Bay in the offseason and slots in at 160. Ben Arnett, Ryan Day and Miguel Diaz fill the heavy end of the roster in an order yet to be determined.

Freshmen Jack Oliver and Ryan Ogle will hold down 106 and 113 while Alaska move-in Conner Murphy could slot in at 138.

Wrestle-offs will determine the Mantas’ final roster, but work in the wrestling room will matter, as well.

“My little freshman, Jack Oliver, I’m probably gong to reward him with being a captain,” Schyck said. “Jack’s not ranked because he’s a freshman, but I guarantee over the course of the first couple of weeks, that will change.

“He’s like Lance was when he was a freshman. Lance was the hardest worker in the wrestling room then and Jack has followed suit with that,” Schyck continued. “We’re trying to get guys to step up to the plate and take a leadership role.”

One of the season’s biggest storylines will be Lance Schyck’s recovery from the surgery to repair is torn ACL. In some ways, the cure has proven more difficult than the injury.

“Last year, he had the support of the brace, so he just had to figure out that he was going to be able to do it, bend his knee, do the things that are necessary,” Schyck said. “This is a little different because not only did they repair his ACL, they took a patellar tendon to repair it. So what he’s dealing with right now is his knee is so sensitive that when he puts it on the ground, it’s like getting a hammer to the knee.”

As a result, his time on the mat will be back-loaded, with a lighter schedule during the season’s first month.

“I think it’s going to take time to callous,” Schyck said. “Do I think he’s going to be OK? Yes. But we’re probably not going to wrestle him until after the first of the year. He can win a lot of his matches right now with out doing much, but I’m worried about him just being on full tilt and wrestling the way he can wrestle and the end of the season.”

Lance Schyck’s injury status has done little to affect his state ranking. He enters the year as the one to beat at 182. With him leading the way, and so many returning wrestlers with state qualifying experience, Mike Schyck is optimistic about the Mantas’ outlook.

“We have a good, core group of seven or eight guys who are going to score for us and I know it’s one man’s opinion, but we’ve never had that before,” Schyck said. “We set the goal of five getting on the podium. Maybe that’s optimistic, but given what we had last year … if we get four or five on the podium, I’ll be happy.”

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