Wauseon will look to win a Northwest Ohio Athletic League wrestling title with (front, from left) Zach Morrow, Austin Yarnell, and Jacob Whitcomb, and (back) Wade Hodges, Zane Krall, Aaron Schuette, and Alec Vonier.
The Blade/Lori King
Wauseon has a lineup a lot like it did a year ago when it proved difficult to deal with in Northwest Ohio Athletic League wrestling.
Zane Krall, a Division II state runner-up, leads the way for the Indians at 220 pounds. He is a three-time state qualifier a two-time league champion.
"Being a state runner-up as a junior, Zane's trying to get over that last hurdle and win a state title," Wauseon coach Mike Ritter said of Krall.
Winning an state championship is the only honor that has eluded Krall.
"Being a state runner-up as a junior, Zane's trying to get over that last hurdle and win a state title," Ritter said.
Krall, who finished with a 47-4 record last season, is one of nine starters back for Wauseon.
Sophomore Wade Hodges (126) placed seventh at state as a freshman and Zach Morrow (120) was a state alternate as a junior last season.
Seniors Jacob Whitcomb and Austin Yarnell (138); juniors Aaron Schuette (160) and Alec Vonier (182), as well as sophomore Jackson Sluder (113) were all district qualifiers for the Indians a season ago.
Senior Devon Harris, a 195-pounder who finished third in league as junior, is also a returning starter expected to experience his share of success on the mat this season.
It's a team quite capable of producing points up and down the lineup.
"I really like how our team is progressing so early in the season," Ritter said. "We came right out of the gate with purpose and focus and it's shown in the practic room. Our numbers are not as high as they've been in the past, but the kids we do have are quality kids.
"Our program has evolved so that expectations every year is to compete for a league title and get kids on the podium in Columbus."
Of course, Krall and his teammates are looking to remain as NWOAL champions.
"Our kids have put a lot of time and hard work in over the last several years and it's paid off for them in the form of three consecutive league titles," Ritter said.
"One of our team goals this year is to try and capture a fourth consecutive NWOAL title."
The Indians’ coach thinks Delta and Archbold pose the biggest challenges in league competition.
Delta coach Anthony Carrizales is also working with a solid foundation of skilled wrestlers who contributed to the Panthers placing third in the Division III state competition.
State runner-up Tyler Fahrer (145), as well as Kyle Keller (106) and Jared Mattin, who both placed fifth at state, give the Panthers a trio of top-notch talent.
"All three of them are, in my mind, good enough to be in the state finals this year and make a run at state titles," Carrizales said. "They're going to have some tough wrestlers to beat, but they're definitely good enough to win it."
James Dailey (120) has moved up in weight after being a district qualifier at 113 last season. Jake Spiess (106), a freshman, is expected to make an immediate impact, considering he's a two-time junior high state champion.
"He's the real deal," Carrizales said.
"He's good enough to shoot for a state title as a freshman."
The Delta coach is optimistic about challenging Wauseon.
"Wauseon has the best dual team from top to bottom," he said.
"But I think we'll give Wauseon a run for their money in the league tournament."
Bryan coach Josh Montgomery is looking to seniors Sheldon Struble (145) and Wes Walter (160) to lead the way for the Golden Bears.
Struble finished seventh at state at 138 last season while Walter was a district qualifier.
Junior Brock Nagle (152/160) and sophomores Bronson Beck (220) and Justen Shepherd (heavyweight) are also expected to contribute on a team looking to challenge for the league's top spot.
"Obviously, Wauseon is the team to beat until it's proven otherwise," Montgomery said. "I would expect us to compete. We feel we have five to eight guys to do well for us."
Evergreen first-year coach Lucas Burkholder is counting on at least six underclassmen to hold their own. Sophomore Ryan Patchin (170), who was a state qualifier as a freshman, leads the way.
"He's looking good right now," said Burkholder, of Patchin, whose gone 8-2 to start the season.
Seniors Kurtis Pierce (132), a three-time district qualifier, and Casey Rade (182), and sophomore Nate Herr (113) are the only other returning starters.
Freshman Tyler Coopshaw (220), sophomores Carl Bettinger (220), and Marty Nichols (heavyweight) have competed well enough for Burkholder to insert them in the lineup.
"We're loaded wth young guys," he said. "They've shown a lot of potential. I look forward to building on this squad."
Archbold has plenty of returners to help the Blue Streaks contend.
Blue Streaks coach Brian Becher is counting on five returning starters to lead an otherwise inexperienced Blue Streaks team. Senior Ben Eggers (132), juniors Travis Jaramillo (220), Kenny Price (138), and Logan Day (145), as well as sophomore Damian Short (120), are all past district qualifiers.
Jaramillo, Price, and Eggers are also past state qualifiers that Becher is looking to see make strong showings at the end of this season.
"If they've been there [state tournament] before, we're expecting for them to place," Becher said. "Anything less would be a disappointment."
Junior Eli Hammersmith (195) and freshman Garrett Grime (160) are also expected to help Archbold’s cause.
Grime was a junior high state qualifier.
"With us having only half of an experienced team, the biggest thing is to get the new guys to get physical," Becher said.
Patrick Henry coach Victor Lopez is counting on senior twins Calvin Palmer (160) and Keith Palmer (170) to take charge for the Patriots.
Liberty Center is led by Zach Niner (132), who placed fourth at state a year ago.
Senior Caleb Smith (126) and junior Tre Ambrecht (132) proved tough competitors in league last season.
Swanton coach Greg Hallett will miss Mimmo Lytle (285) at the end of the lineup.
Lytle graduated as a two-time Division III state champion.
The Bulldogs will lean on a nucleus of four returning starters: Seniors Jacob Reisinger (195), Jacob McCoy (113), Aaron Brown (182), as well as junior Troy Houston (170).
With 11 wrestlers making up the top three classes combined, Hallett is also banking on a group of 11 freshmen to contribute. Freshmen J.D. Reisinger (120), Jordan Nyler (152), Owen Dodd (160) and Chance Velba (heavyweight) have shown the most promise during the early part of the season.
"They've all improved immensely over the summer months in camps," Hallett said.
Montpelier coach Troy Roth has six returning letter winners.
Seniors Dan Hand (170), Tyler Benner (160) and Cole Ries (120) were all district qualifiers.
Junior Sean Taylor (126), and sophomores Hunter McKelvey (152) and Tyler McDaniel also have experience.
Freshmen Zech Thompson (182), Jordan Birdsall (138), and Dallas Royer (132) are among the top newcomers.
"With the help of good senior leadership, we should be able to hold our own against most of the teams," said Roth, who is in his 12th season of coaching the Locomotives.