The good news is that Bedford still has one of the best wrestling programs in the state of Michigan under 16th-year coach Dennis Brighton, who himself was a big part of that legacy.
Brighton won state titles in 1973 and '74 for the Kicking Mules, who have had 33 individual state champions.
The bad news is, that legacy comes with a bar set so high that anything less than a state team championship is generally viewed as something of a failure.
In the 35 seasons between 1976, when Bedford won its first state team title, and last year, it has won 11 state team championships and has been runner-up seven times.
These 18 finishes of first or second place have all come under Brighton (titles in 1999 and 2001, second place in 1998, 2002 and 2008), and his redecessor, Bill Regnier (nine titles, four runners-up).
Thus, even with 11 starters back, plus a 12th wrestler who saw significant varsity action, Brighton isn't quite sure how this year's team will measure up, even though they are likely destined to capture their 11th consecutive Southeastern Conference title, and 40th overall league title in 42 years.
Defending D-1 state champion Detroit Catholic Central and Oxford were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the first Michigan state poll, and Brighton, whose squad is ranked No. 5, doesn't argue with that assessment.
"We have a lot of experience," Brighton said, "but we're still young with only three seniors in the lineup. We're wrestling pretty good right now, but we're not where we need to be to win a state championship. We can't beat those top teams just yet.
"We have two goals every year -- to win our league and to win a state championship. If we don't do that, we don't consider it a successful season. That's what we strive for, to live up to those teams from the past. That's the standard we have set for ourselves."
Bedford's title pursuits will be led by its three qualifiers from the last year's individual state tournament, including sophomore Mitch Rogaliner, a 103-pounder who was 50-7 last season and became the Mules' 33rd state champion last season, the first freshman to accomplish that feat.
Senior Brian Gibbs, who also eclipsed was 55-3 last year, placed third in D-1 at 140 pounds, and junior Nate Stevens (145) qualified for state but did not place.
Also returning to the lineup are seniors Mason Allison (125), Al Regnier (135) and Chaz Hudson (152), juniors John Prazjner (171), Brian Smith (215) and Logan Rimmer (285), and sophomore Brandon Sunday (189). Allison, Regnier and Smith were each regional tournament qualifiers a year ago.
The Mules opened their season Dec. 4 with a second-place finish at the Lansing Eastern Invitational, with Gibbs winning an individual title, then took a 66-6 SEC dual-match win last Thursday over Chelsea at Adrian. On Saturday, they placed second to Dundee at the Bedford Invitational, with Rogaliner, Gibbs and Rimmer each placing first.
Ohio Wrestling League
Cardinal Stritch and Northwood are looking to make some noise in the Ohio Wrestling League.
Cardinals coach David Wlodarz entered the season leaning on four returners from last season's team.
David Szymanski, a senior, was a district qualifier at 215 last season. Junior Christian Peters (171) was also a district qualifier.
"Maybe Dave Szymanski will be that guy for us this year," said Wlodarz, who is in his ninth season as Stritch's coach. "He's wrestling at 215 even though he only weighs 198 pounds."
Seniors Joe Donovan (140), Tyler Wilhelm (160), Murphy Mahoney (189) and Allen Thompson (285) are also expected to contribute.
Mike Kiss (171/189) sat out last season with a knee injury but is back for his senior season. Junior Zach Denomy (130) also has experience.
"I don't think we have the total numbers to compete (in dual meets), but we should stay challenging," Wlodarz said.
Northwood coach Steve Simok has 10 wrestlers, including five district qualifiers.
The Rangers aer hoping to have enough wrestlers to win some dual meets, and Simok said they'd like to end a three-year drought in which they have not had a state qualifier.
Senior Nick Lang (112); juniors Matt Schicher (130) and Tyler Mack (140); and sophomores Brandon Kretz (119) and Daniels Prothero (160) reached the district a year ago.
Kretz and Prothero started this season by winning five of their first six matches.
Arcadia is the favorite in the OWL, with McComb expected to also contend for the crown.