Bolstered by a deep and talented junior class, Perrysburg's wrestling team is young but already highly respected in the Northern Lakes League.
The Yellow Jackets may not have any senior starters, but the juniors are experienced and are backed up by solid sophomores and two outstanding freshmen. Perrysburg is predicted to win its first NLL title since 2003-04.
"It's a tremendous honor," Perrysburg coach Sam Cotterman said. "To be honest, I'd rather be the underdog. But every junior in our lineup has started since they were freshmen."
Perrysburg took second in the league last year and lost only four seniors. Ten of the 14 weight classes will be filled with returning starters.
Perrysburg has already defeated Anthony Wayne and Springfield in dual meets.
"We can't be satisfied with those wins," said Cotterman, a first-year head coach who has been an assistant since 2007-08. "We are the team they want to get after."
The Yellow Jackets are led by two returning league champs junior Micah Carter (215-pound weight class) and sophomore Ryan Roth (130).
Springfield, a perennial contender, should be tough again. Blue Devils longtime coach Tim Dishong said he has good numbers with quality kids up and down the lineup. But his team is particularly strong in the upper weights.
"We will be a stronger tournament team," Dishong said. "We'll be an underdog to win it. But that's realistically still our goal. If we don't finish on top, I'd be disappointed. But Perrysburg has a lot back and Anthony Wayne is the returning champions. There is more balance this year than maybe ever."
Springfield senior Robbie Shiekh (125) is a two-time NLL champ and junior Alex Gearig (130) also won a league title last year.
Anthony Wayne won its first NLL title since 1972 last year and the Generals have high expectations under fifth-year coach Ryan Donley, who has nine wrestlers back. AW has two champs back (Christian Yates and Alex Bridges).
"The NLL is very respected in northwest Ohio," Donley said. "We produce state-caliber kids. The competition is tough week in and week out. Perrysburg is as good as any team around here."
Last-place Northview has already opened some eyes by winning Northwood's Jim Derr Invitational, placing 10 wrestlers with four champions.
"We are hoping that this will set the tone for the rest of the season and drive our team to work even harder to place in the top three in the NLL," coach Luke McKinley said.
Perrysburg and Springfield meet Jan. 6 in a key dual meet. The NLL tournament is Feb. 12 at Rossford. The title is decided by a combination of dual meet and tournament points.
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Perrysburg has 17 wrestlers, but just three seniors. But 10 starters return along with 14 letter winners
Carter won a sectional title and was a state alternate with a 30-3 record. "He is the biggest threat [to go to state]," Cotterman said of Carter, who is ranked No. 7 the preseason state rankings and is 9-0.
Roth (130) also captured a sectional title and is up from 112. Junior Kolin Cookson (135) is a three-year varsity starter. Junior Jake Fleming (140) finished second in the league and was third at sectionals.
Freshman J.P. Newton (145) was second in the junior high state tournament and is 8-1. "He could go to Columbus," Cotterman said. "He is just very impressive."
Junior Luke Boff (171, third in NLL and sectional) is 9-0. Junior Connor Hoffmann (152) is the grandson of Jerry Metcalf, who won the first state title for Perrysburg (1971). The program has not sent anyone down to state since 2004-05.
"We are a more physical team and we are better on our feet," Cotterman said. "But we have a group of good wrestlers stuck in [the same] weight classes. If our weights fall in the right spots, we look to be a very tough team. We would like to turn some heads."
Springfield has compiled a 119-16-2 NLL dual meet record in 22 seasons under Dishong. Last year, the Blue Devils went 6-1 in the league.
Under Dishong's direction, Springfield has won 10 NLL titles with the last coming in 2006-07. There are 35 wrestlers in the program with 11 starters and 14 letter winners.
Shiekh and Gearig were both district qualifiers. Junior Ty Nguyen (112) placed second in the league last year. Senior Connor DeCavitch (152) is returning from a knee injury and went 7-0 in Springfield's Dick Hoover Duals.
"We have some kids with Nguyen, Shiekh, Gearig, and DeCavitch that have realistic shots at going to the state tournament," Dishong said.
Junior Kyle Ruiz (160), a district qualifier, returns along with senior Riley Yoder (140).
With a high number of wrestlers, Dishong has good depth in the upper weights. The team is young and enthusiastic. "But we're thin at the low and middle weights," he said.
Anthony Wayne lost two promising wrestlers who are not participating.
"We are solid in some weight classes," Donley said.
The senior class that won the NLL last year was the first Donley coached.
"They came through and won it. It hadn't been done since 1972," he said. "It was amazing with all the work we put in. It was my single greatest moment in sports."
The numbers are down (23 total), but six seniors, seven starters and 11 letter winners are back. He has four freshmen in lineup.
Yates, a sophomore 112-pounder, went 22-8 last year and was a district qualifier after finishing second at sectionals. Bridges (189), a district qualifier, set a school record for wins in a season when he posted a 38-7 record.
Junior Joe Henry (140) took third in the NLL and has started since he was a freshman. Senior Nathan Spotts (145) is a three-year starter who was a district alternate and junior Brett Meyers (152) was third in the league. Senior Austin Brahaney (160) also was a district alternate, while senior Tayo Osinowo (171) took third at sectionals. Also back is senior Ben Remaklus (125).
"We have quite a few kids that have knocked on the door and not gone over the top," Donley said. "We have to develop our younger wrestlers and we can be right in the hunt."
Northview looks primed to make a push into the upper echelon.
McKinley, who is in his third year, has three seniors and eight returning starters among 25 total wrestlers.
"We started the year coming off another last place finish in the NLL, and made a decision that it wouldn't happen again," McKinley said. "We added positive additions to our coaching staff [Rada Eltatawy and Jeremy Fowler] who have really transformed the dynamics of the wrestling room."
Junior Brian Elden (125) was a state alternate, while junior Jacob Harder (112) and senior William Sargent (140) were district qualifiers. It was the third time Sargent reached the district level.
Senior Tanner Newland (135) was the team's MVP and junior Todd Enis (130) was a district alternate. Senior Shane Modryzynski (152) also is a returning starter.
McKinley said he also has a strong freshmen class. But while solid in the lower weights, Northview lacks depth in the higher weight classes.
"We are hoping that our younger wrestlers step up into those heavier varsity spots," he said. "We have set our sights high."
At Southview, longtime City League coach Mark Contos takes over after six years at Start that followed seven seasons at Rogers.
He has 31 wrestlers and seven returning starters but just one senior.
The top returnees are: junior Luke Zastrow (135, district qualifier, 23-16), junior Bryce Ibarra (112, league runner-up, district qualifier, 22-17), junior Torrey Tarschis (125, third in the league), and sophomore Ahmad Parker (171/189, league runner up, 20-13). Juniors Daniel Barnes (145) and Kyle Stout (285) are joined by talented freshmen Tanner Ruiz (103) and Ryan Stout (215).
"The kids have a good work ethic and are not afraid of the weight room," Contos said. "They like competition and wrestling live."
But he has seven freshmen along with 24 sophomores and juniors.
At Maumee, Jeff Goatley takes over for Ken Walczak, the coach with the most dual meet wins in school history. Goatley, who was an assistant under Walczak, was part of back-to-back NLL titles in 2008 and 2009.
There are 28 total in the Panther program, including four seniors, six returning starters and 10 letter winners.
Junior Josh Bischoff (140) was a district qualifier, went 25-11, and was third in the NLL. Junior Cody Hickerson (135) was an NLL champ and district qualifier. Junior Dalton Cleghorn (152/145) was a district alternate and placed second in the league. Sophomore Nick Grzegorzewski (215) also was a district qualifier, while senior Dalton Staub (130) was voted team captain.
"They worked hard in the off season," Goatley said.
"We worry about being a little young, but we have a strong junior class. We have good conditioning."
Goatley said many of his wrestlers were members of the football team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
"That has created a culture of success," he said. "Come the league tournament, we can be a force. We should be a top three team when all is said and done."
Bowling Green will compete with a large number (35) which includes seven seniors and nine returning starters.
Senior Brandon Morelock went 23-16 and was a district qualifier at 125. Senior Sam Postich (135) posted a 28-14 mark and was a district qualifier.
Senior Jared Goris went 21-17 at 160. Senior Ben Bembry (189) was 28-13 and finished second in the NLL.
"We have quite a few seniors back and 12 freshmen will fill in holes," BG coach Andrew Webb said.
"We have good work ethic. The older guys are doing a nice job leading. We would like to get in the top three in the league tournament."
At Rossford, coach Ron Recknagel is hoping seven starters and nine letter winners can make some noise in the Bulldogs' last year in the league.
Senior D.J. Recknagel (189) was a second team All-NLL linebacker. He has won two NLL titles and was a state qualifier last year. The son of the coach has 91 career victories.
Other top Bulldog grapplers are: junior Brett DiLucia (152), freshman CJ Ball (112), senior Nathan Reiter (145, a three-time letter winner), and sophomore Steve Nordhaus (171, fourth in NLL).
"We finally have some depth at several weight classes, which means people will have to compete to be in the starting line-up," Recknagel said.
"But we will have eight freshmen and sophomores in the starting line-up. If we can get some key victories out of our younger wrestlers, we should be able to compete in the top half of the league."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6354.