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Published: Thursday, 12/18/2008

SIDELINES: Champion Panthers bent on repeating in NLL

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Defending NLL champion Maumee has plenty of experience returning. Among the leaders for the Panthers are, from left, Justin Rippke, Mike Warren and Mikkal Johnson. Defending NLL champion Maumee has plenty of experience returning. Among the leaders for the Panthers are, from left, Justin Rippke, Mike Warren and Mikkal Johnson.
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The starting lineup for reigning Northern Lakes League wrestling champion Maumee looks a lot like the one that took the league by surprise a year ago.

With nine letter winners back there s no catching anyone off guard this year.

Maumee is the clear-cut favorite to win it all again.

The league will be very competitive, Panthers coach Ken Walczak said. Last year we just happened to be older and more experienced.

I really don t like being afavorite but I think most coaches feel that way. I like being theunderdogs.

Among the returners for Maumee are reigning league champions Justin Rippke (heavyweight), Mike Warren (119 pounds) and Mike Graves (145).

Mikkal Johnson, who didn t win a league title but went on to become a state qualifier, also figures to be a key wrestler.

The Panthers roster includes 12 seniors with experience.

I don t know if you can find too many programs in the area you can say that about, Walczak said of the Panthers senior-dominated roster. But now with that comes responsibility and pressure.

We ve told the guys it s harder to repeat than to win one championship because you re not surprising anyone.

Springfield, who was runner-up last year, is considered the team most likely to challenge the Panthers.

The league is pretty balanced, Springfield coach Tim Dishong said. I see Maumee going into this season as the team to beat and then there s us and Perrysburg.

Staying healthy is really a key for us because we don t have a lot of depth.

Still, the Blue Devils return eight letter winners, including three defending league champions. Garrett Manley (112), Aaron Ferguson (140) and Rick Meek (171) rank as Springfield s top returners.

Manley, a junior, is coming off a breakout season in which he went on to become a Division I state qualifier.

He finished fourth at 103. He has moved up to 112 this year, which has not shown any signs of hampering him at the start of the season.

He works extremely hard, Dishong said of Manley, who opened the year with a 6-1 record. He s up in weight but going up in size shouldn t be too much for him.

Ferguson and Meek, both seniors, showed themselves as two strong wrestlers in their respective weight divisions a year ago.

Those three [Manley, Ferguson and Meek] have a really good shot of getting to the state tournament, Dishong said.

Springfield hopes to build from a NLL runner-up finsish last season with Garrett Manley, Rick Meek, and Aaron Ferguson. Springfield hopes to build from a NLL runner-up finsish last season with Garrett Manley, Rick Meek, and Aaron Ferguson.
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Southview s Greg Isley is one of the area s top returners after climbing through the ranks a year ago to finish second at the Division I state meet at 189. Isley, an All-Ohio linebacker and defensive leader on the Cougars state championship football team, figures as a favorite to repeat as a league champion.

Jake Staebler (215) is also considered a league title contender for the Cougars.

Perrysburg s Brian Graniter (119), Josh Jordan (130), Tom Mori (140), Kris Richardson (145) and Austin Morris (152) are projected to give the Yellow Jackets quality depth.

Billy Irwin (125), Jake Siefert (130), Sean Lubinski (152) and Travis Reiner (160) provide the leadership for an Anthony Wayne team looking to contend.

Tony Shepler (125), Eric Brown (160), Chris Reynolds (189) and Dennis Cox (285) take the lead role for Northview, while Bowling Green s Nick Miller (135) and Jeff Carr (140) figure as league title contenders.

Danielle Jewell (125), Shane Bryant (130) and D.J. Recknagel (171) give Rossford a strong trio.

Contact Donald Emmons at:demmons@theblade.comor 419-724-6302



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