Panthers Poised to Crown More Champions
By Joanna Chadwick
After losing another wave of outstanding wrestlers, Derby has revamped and reloaded once again.
Like all other teams across the country, Derby has had its fair share of wrestlers miss competitions due to COVID-19, but long-time coach Bill Ross isn’t worried about that.
The Panther pedigree is strong.
The Panthers return four Class 6A state placers from last year’s team. State runner-up Braden Tatum, who transferred from Rose Hill, fourth-place finisher Tate Rusher, two-time fourth-place finisher Knowlyn Egan and fourth-place finisher Miles Wash.
“This team works very hard,” Ross said. “They show up for practice every day and they are ready to work. They welcome hard practices, and they want to improve. They are very business-like, and they have great character. I can count on them giving me 100 percent effort each time they compete.”
The hard-working reputation of the Panthers’ program is still evident. The Panthers tied for sixth in a 12-team tournament and 12th in a 34-team tournament despite having some key wrestlers out during those last two tournaments.
The Newton invitational was one of the first opportunities to get a good idea of some of the potential matchups in Class 6A because it fielded 34 teams. Wash was fourth at 220 pounds, and Rusher was third at 138.
Ross continues to preach family with his team despite the COVID issues that have separated them.
“It is fun coaching kids that love to go to work,” he said. “This team makes it easy for me to come to practice every day because I know every practice is going to go well. Their great attitudes and work ethic make it easy for me to go to practice every day.”
The Panthers feel poised and confident to make a run at multiple individual state championships – barring no injuries or COVID pauses for the athletes.