Saxton has Buckeye on the road back


Times Leader Sports Writer

Whether it is the intensity at which they competed or the level of preparation that carried them into matches, wrestling seems to be the one sport that good wrestlers become good coaches.

Such is the case at Buckeye Local, where success during the Dan Doyle, Jay Michael and Brian Davis eras has fallen off and now has a former Panther state champion trying to rebuild and regenerate a program in need of a reconstruction project.

Willie Saxton is in the midst of his second year as the head coach at his alma mater and in just that second year it appears that Saxton may just be on the right track.

“We set some achievable goals for the team this year and so far we have reached three of them,” Saxton said looking over the current season. “We are 4-9 in duals. That might not seem like much, but we only had one win in duals last year and I’m not sure if they had any in the two years before.”

Saxton also brought to attention the fact that numbers in the wrestling program at Buckeye have improved. While the Panthers were caught in numerous forfeited weight classes last year, that hasn’t been an issue this season.

“We went through a stretch when injuries forced us to forfeit a couple classes this year, but we are at more than full strength this season,” he pointed out. “We are in the midst of wrestle-offs in a few classes to determine who wrestles in the OVAC and that is because of the numbers we have.”

Saxton also mentioned that the numbers also lead to belief that the future looks bright on the Panther mats.

“We only have seven seniors on the squad, but some of the younger wrestlers have push the seniors to the point that they have earned their way to start in the varsity matches”.

“This is a young team,” he added. “We have a lot freshmen and sophomores filling weight classes this year and we have a group of eighth graders that will provide us with some quality next season. There is a group of five junior wrestlers that have done extremely well this season.”

Buckeye lost only three wrestlers through graduation from last season including District qualifier Ryan Morrow, District alternate Kyle Mason and four-year letterman Tristan Jones.

After the OVACs, the Panthers will be involved in two tri-matches. One of those tri’s will include St. Clairsville and Meadowbrook while the other will include Bridgeport and Steubenville. Buckeye will again be hosting the Panther Classic before heading into the Sectionals.

Heading into the Buckeye 8 competition, Saxton’s squad had put together a 4-9 dual record with wins over Weir, Edison, Steubenville Catholic and Preston County. They also fair well at the Rick Link Invitational at Union Local, the Barnesville Invitational and the always-rugged Wheeling Park Duals.

Saxton is hopeful that two wrestlers can find their way to the front of the stage at the OVAC tournament. Seniors Jason Binkiewicz and Brandon Kaiser were both successful last season as place finishers in the sectional tournament. Kaiser finished second and was a District qualifier and Binkiewicz finished third and just missed out on the District.

Binkiewicz, a 170-pounder has really turned his wrestling career around after a major learning experience as a freshman and sophomore. He finished at 39-11 last season and is currently 17-6 this season.

Kaiser, at 113 pounds, has had some very impressive wins this season. According to Saxton, he just keeps getting better with each outing and was close to placing in the OVAC tournament last year.

“Binkiewicz and Kaiser are two of wrestlers that I expect to place in the OVACs,” Saxton said. “They have both shown a lot of improvement and along with the other seniors have been great leaders for this team.”

At 106, Saxton has a much improved wrestler in Jordyn Spencer. According to Saxton, she has worked very hard and has recovered from a concussion at the state duals that sidelined her for a time. She was 7-13 last season and as a sophomore this year stands at 8-9.

At 120, the Panthers have a freshman in Travis Light. The young wrestler has a deceptive 10-9 mark this season.

Freshman Seth Richardson wrestles at 126 with a 4-6 record. this only the second year that Richardson has wrestled, but has shown great heart and determination according to his coach.

At 132, senior Jake Miller has returned to the mat after sitting out the sport following his freshman season. Miller is currently 10-9 and has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers. Saxton believes that Miller, a District alternate as a freshman, could be the sleeper in this year’s OVAC tourney.

Saxton has Wheeling Park transfer Arch Newman at 138 pounds. Newman, a sophomore, has overcome some early season issues on the mat to build a 6-5 record.

At 145, the Panthers have another freshman who is out for the sport for the first time, Although winless, Skylar Hatten has shown great improvement and is grasping the sport very well.

Saxton has an unusual situation at 152 with three quality young wrestlers. Freshman Charles Smith came into the season as a highly-touted junior high wrestler. Smith was a state qualifier last season and finished fourth in the OVAC junior high tournament. He owns a 3-4 record, but has been sidelined with an injury and will likely miss the OVAC.

Also at 152 is junior Dalton Barnes, owner of a 3-6 mark, has filled the spot well since Smith was injured. The third wrestler at 152 is an offspring of Buckeye Local’s top wrestling family. Max Kendjorsky, a freshman with a 3-4 record this season is just another in a family that produced standouts including Nate and Hank Kendjorsky.

Another sophomore fills the 160 pound weight class in Jack Reese. At 2-7, Reese has been showing improvement since slow start.

Senior Wyatt Cornish started the season at 3-2 for the Panthers at 182 before an injury sidelined him for the season.

Sophomore Shayne Christian has filled the spot since with a 2-4 mark.

Saxton believes that the 195-pound weight class is a very tough one at the OVAC tournament and he has three wrestlers vying for the in freshman Zack Cesario with a 4-14 mark, sophomore Dylan Weir at 1-1 and freshman Steve Bezak at 1-2.

The coach noted that Bezak could bounce between 195 and 220.

At 220, the Panthers have three wrestlers, all seniors, vying for the spot. Reece Johnson has a 3-12 mark and David Crites, in his second year, stands at 0-3. Michael Ingram, at 1-0, has a great attitude in only his second year on the mats.

At heavyweight, Saxton has a battle between two sophomores, Matt Barsch and Lucas Dickerson. Dickerson, at 9-7, is vastly improved over last year. According to Saxton, Dickerson has lost to some very wrestlers and has beaten some very good wrestlers.

Barsch, who bested Dickerson in a wrestle-off last year and participated in the OVAC owns a 2-2 record, but continues to improve in the highly-competitive Panther weight class.

Saxton has a good staff that includes Dillon Stickler, Ronald Clark, Mike Wilt, J.D. Nidle and Tony Francis.


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