COVINGTON -- Last season, the Rams wrestling team got through matches with no intension of winning. This season they feel like they actually have a chance to win.
"I feel a lot more optimistic. I feel we're better everywhere," Newton head coach Paul Nelson said. "We only lost one kid and we only have one senior (Jeremy Fuller) again this year. We have juniors and sophomores this year. It's a lot better than throwing in a bunch of freshman in there."
However, those freshman the sophomores they threw to the lions last year are now the wrestlers that Nelson is counting on.
"Last year there were a lot of spots where I knew I was going to give up six points. We don't have any real weak spots this year. We don't have killers at every spot, but I feel good about every spot in there," Nelson said. "Everybody has done this before, they have experience. We'll be a lot more competitive from a team aspect."
One wrestler which was not on the firing line last year, because he was an eight-grader at Veterans Middle School, is freshman AJ Palamino. Palamino will be one of Newton's big men wrestling in the 195-pound weight division.
"He knows what he's doing. Most guys that come in from middle school, you have to break them of bad habits as they try to out muscle people. He has a couple (bad habits) but he knows some stuff too," Nelson said.
Nelson's goals for this year are to compete in the Class AAAAA dual meet and to send at least three wrestlers to the Class AAAAA traditional meet.
The Rams missed out going to the team dual meet last year finishing tied for third place. It is a desire that he has to take the team to the Macon Centreplex for the first time under his watch.
Last season, he had one wrestler (Jose Rivera -- 138) qualify for the state meet. This year he would like to see Rivera make it back as well as at least two others. Nelson feels that his best chances of qualifying are Zach Jenkins (152) and Fuller (182).
Giving Nelson his hope for reaching his goals is that they had a good summer and fall practice. Helping Nelson this season is lay-coach Edgard Gousse.
"I'm good at certain things but I'm also not good at certain things. I think it's already shown a lot of good. We have coach Gousse and he's done a really good job with those guys as I was finishing with football," Nelson said. "We haven't missed a beat."
The other thing that Nelson is doing different than he was last year is that he only having two home meets. The first one, on Nov. 23, is a tournament called the Ram Tough Challenge. The other one, a tri-meet with Spalding and Stephenson on Dec. 6, is also going to be their senior night.
Newton will be competing in seven tournament and five tri-meets. One of the tri-meets the Newton wrestlers are looking forward to is the Newton Cup on Dec. 13.
"They're already talking about it," Nelson said. "They went to middle school with a lot of those guys, still keep in touch with them. There are a few teams that you just do not talk to them. At a tournament, in between rounds, the kids are talking and playing with each other. But then when it comes down to wrestle they put all that aside.
"We're used to doing so many things on the road. Wrestlers don't get caught in that home-field advantage. They're a different animal. I'm lucky because when it come to match time they're self motivated and they get ready to go."