Southview coach Tony Geha understands the wrestling landscape in the Northern Lakes League.
The Cougars claimed the league championship last season, winning six of seven league duals in the process. It was the first time since 1982 for Southview to finish at the top of the league standings.
Geha likes what he sees out of the group that makes up the defending league champions. Yet, the Southview coach isn t predicting a repeat to come along without the Cougars working hard for it.
We might have to have a few things go our way and then we might have an outside shot, said Geha, whose lineup includes 10 returners.
Southview is one of a few teams in the NLL boasting lineups with plenty of returning talent. Springfield and Anthony Wayne are also among the league favorites.
Rossford coach Ron Recknagel, who also has 10 returners to work with this season, makes it clear which team he thinks deserves top status.
Southview returns as the league champion, so until someone knocks them off they re still the champs, Recknagel said. Springfield will be good. We would like to finish in the upper half of the league.
Southview seniors Gabe Garcia (152) and Nate Zellers (171), who are defending individual league champions, lead a strong Cougars lineup. Garcia returns for his senior season after posting a 41-6 record a year ago.
Southview senior Brian Helminiak (160) was a league runner-up in his weight division last season while Kyle Bradley (135) returns for his final year after placing third in league. Junior Alex Latham (125) and sophomore Greg Isley (189) are also considered early season favorites.
All of those guys have a shot to make it beyond district if they keep working hard, Geha said.
The Cougars coach considers his team solid in 10 or 11 of the 14 weight classes, but the concern is filling out a complete team.
I think Springfield is going to be the team to beat, Geha said. They re more balanced than we are because we have a few holes.
Springfield coach Tim Dishong has a roster that boasts 13 letter winners from a team that finished second in the NLL. A year ago, nine Blue Devils placed in the league meet, including two-time heavyweight champion Chris Holland.
Seniors Matt Dennis (125) and Kevin Byers (135) have been state qualifiers, along with junior Brian Smith (103), who attended Eastwood as a freshman and sophomore.
I think you ll see strong teams in Anthony Wayne and Southview, Dishong said. Southview will be one of the best teams in the area. I think you ve got to go with Southview, the returning champion. Hopefully we ll be in the hunt.
Anthony Wayne first-year head coach Ryan Donley likes the group that makes up his team.
Wes Myers (152), Shaun Munson (140) and Dana Benner (145) all district qualifiers a year ago provide leadership for a team that returns 10 letter winners.
I think we will be one of the teams competing for the league championship, Donley said. If we re in the hunt come league tournament time we ll have a shot to win it.
Donley expect a close race. He doesn t believe a single team will run away with the title the way Southview did a year ago.
Springfield is a very good team and Southview is the defending champion, so they re right up there, the AW coach said. But I d say we re right up there with them.
Rossford also figures to make some noise, especially three-time league champion and two-time state placer, Jeremy Espinoza. A 125-pounder the past two seasons (112 as a freshman), Espinoza is looking to make his presence felt in the 130-pound division in his final year.
Espinoza, who posted a 43-1 record last winter losing only in a state semifinal, will attempt to become only the fourth wrestler in NLL history to win a league title four years straight.
He ll achieve whatever he sets out to do as hard as he works, Recknagel said.
Rossford seniors Joel Ulrich (119) and Tony Seely (189) and junior Jordan Wray (140) are also considered leaders.
Youth is being served for Maumee, where underclassmen are dominant. Fifteen sophomores lead the Panthers.
However, senior Brad Laclair (145) and sophomore Pete Schlegel (103) defending league champions represent Maumee s most successful returners.
They led the Panthers to a 41-34 dual meet win over Southview only a week ago. Sophomores Mikkal Johnson (135) and Justin Rippke (215) are among the underclassmen who have shown plenty of promise.
We re young and I would really hope to be in the top half of the league, Maumee coach Ken Walczak said. But all these teams in the league are really good.
Perrysburg coach Matt Boggs will rely on seniors Jay Burkhart (135), Kyle Richardson (140) and Dan Garcia (171) for leadership with a young group. Sophomore Tom Mari (119) is the only returner who placed at the league meet last season.
Bowling Green senior Mac Henry (152), junior Rudy Hendon (145) and sophomore Dennis Cox (heavyweight) are considered key for Bobcats coach Andy Webb.
Northview first-year coach Josh Tyburski has a balance of senior leadership and underclassmen to work with. The Wildcats success will probably hinge upon seniors Matt Urban (285), Scott Boileau (119), Travis Zipfel (152) and Justin Bailey (140). Urban, a league runner-up at 215 last season, has won his first seven matches this season.
Zipfel was also a league runner-up last season, while Bailey returns for his senior season after qualifying for sectional and district last season.