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Experience, depth, and confidence give Genoa a significant edge in the race for the Northern Buckeye Conference wrestling championship.
The Comets have eight wrestlers back that all earned spots in the district last year. Genoa has 11 returner staters among the 14 weight classes.
“We have several solid wrestlers who can hold their own with anyone in the circle,” coach Bob Bergman said. “We feel that the better the team the better the individuals on it. Whatever individual weaknesses that do exist they are generally compensated for by our team's style of wrestling and the superior skills of the other wrestlers on the team.”
Genoa finished third last season but a handful of Comets hope capturing NBC titles will lead to long postseason runs.
“We have some guys who expect to be competing in Columbus at the end of the season and are committed to making that goal a reality,” Bergman said. “We aim to build our team by creating a culture of 'We before Me.' ”
Defending champion Elmwood, which edged out Eastwood for the first NBC title last season, lost nine seniors to graduation. The Royals also lost four league champs. But four place winners return for veteran Elmwood coach David Lee.
“We have good numbers, a great coaching staff, and a great tradition,” Lee said. “We may be young and inexperienced but the team is learning fast and improving. I feel like we can make Genoa sweat come the end of the season.”
Eastwood has plenty of experience as well with six seniors and five returning starters back. Four district qualifiers return for the Eagles who finished second last season.
“We should have a good solid season,” Eastwood coach Joe Wyant said. “By the end of season we hope we can compete for the league.”
Here's a look at the teams in predicted order of finish based on a coaches' poll:
Genoa has 25 wrestlers in its program, including six seniors.
The Comets went 28-5 in dual meets last year and are 9-3 this season. Bergman, who is in his second season, said he has a mix of youth and experience on his team.
“Our inexperience should be less of a factor by the postseason with us wrestling in so many matches against quality opponents,” he said.
Junior Max Reeder (132) tallied a 29-8 record, won an NBC championship, and was a state qualifier.
Senior Drew Keenan (145) compiled a 40-10 record last season. He is a three-time district qualifier and is currently 15-2.
Senior Jake Fejes (160) went 30-14 last year and is 12-3 so far. Fejes is a three-time district qualifier and NBC place winner.
Senior Seth Morrison (126) posted a 27-15 record and qualified for the district tournament for the second straight season. Morrison is 14-2 this season.
Senior Ryan Szymanski (152) placed sixth at the district last year. Also back is a trio of sophomores, who started as freshmen. Jay Nino (195) and Brandon Bates (120) were district qualifiers, while Nate Moore (138) went 31-18.
Senior Mike Snider (170) had a 24-18 record and is a two-time NBC placer.
Eastwood went 27-5 in dual meets last season.
Senior Kyle Patterson (182) placed eighth at state after finishing second in the NBC.
Senior Randy Caris (170) had a 43-6 record and is a two-time NBC champion, while senior Brad Radabaugh (152) compiled a 35-19record and was runner up in the NBC.
Senior Joe Nauman (220) suffered a knee injury last year after a 12-1 start. He won a league title in 2011. Senior Adam Wolf (195) made it out of the sectional after finishing second in the NBC.
“We have five good seniors with good leadership,” Wyant said. “Overall our attitude and tradition is great.”
But with only 16 wrestlers, the Eagles have had to forfeit two to three lightweight classes each meet.
“Our seniors must wrestle good every match because of our youth and the lack of depth,” Wyant said.
Elmwood has 11 returning letter winners, including four who placed at the NBC tournament.
Coach Dave Lee, who is in his 25th season, has 27 out for the team, including 16 returners. Seven freshmen are out, including five that have middle school experience.
“Our young men are wrestling hard,” Lee said.
Senior Dustin Ferguson (120/126) looks to defend his league title. He finished eighth at the Division III state tournament.
Sophomore Brandon Pennington (120), senior Michael Baer (145), and junior Jake Wise (160/170) all placed at the league meet and qualified for the district.
Seniors George Anrich (106/113), Justin Hathaway (145), Alex Jasso (145/152), and Allen Dyar (160/170) also return. Freshman Dylan Hall (132/138) won a league middle school title.
But Lee lost nine seniors, including four NBC champs and three state qualifiers.
“We may be young and inexperienced but the team is learning fast and improving daily,” Lee said.
Woodmore has solid leadership and good numbers, according to coach Dane Bonnigson.
The Wildcats, who were fourth in the league last season, have seven starters back among 16 wrestlers, including four seniors.
Junior Evan Ulinski (106) compiled a 45-5 record last year and finished fourth at the D-III state meet. He also won league and sectional titles.
Senior Colten Datkun (120) placed second in the NBC and was third at the sectional. Junior Tony Rozzi (138) also took second in the NBC and was in third at the sectional.
Senior Dylan Young (182) placed fourth in the league meet. Sophomore Seth Gaghen was fourth at the sectional. Junior Henry Flores (220) took third in the NBC
“We have a good mix of experience and youth,” Bonnigson said. “We hope the younger wrestlers learn from the veterans what we expect.”
Obviously, with the return of Evan Ulinski, we expect big things from him off of last season, We should have a good season, and I am very happy that we should almost be able to field a full lineup.
"We have a handful of wrestlers that I think can make a deep run in the state tournament.”
Otsego coach Joe Gerwin believes if his Knights stay healthy, they will finish in the top half of the league.
The team finished seventh last year but 14 wrestlers are in the program. The returning starters are Buddy Limes, Trenton Soto, Austin Glosser, Riley Tercha, Jordan Hendrix, David Glenn, and Zach Zuhlsdorf.
Hendrix, a junior at 160, posted a 27-11 record and was a district qualifier.
Soto (21-21), a sophomore at 126, also earned a spot in the district.
Limes, a sophomore at 120, had a 20-11 record and was a district qualifier.
“Our team is very cohesive and eager to improve,” Gerwin said.
“We have depth issues at multiple weight classes,” Gerwin said. “But we are hard-working and our young wrestlers have already had success at the league and district level.”
Fostoria has increased its roster to 18 for coach Nick Davis.
The Redmen finished fourth last year and have three starters and three seniors back.
Senior Tony Reynolds (170) posted a 36-17 record and finished sixth at the state tournament. Sophomore Luke Leonard (120) qualified for the district and finished with a 33-19 record. Both Reynolds and Leonard finished second in the NBC.
Also back are seniors Anthony Thompson (21-12 at 220) and Salvador Cantero (12-2 at 145). Cantero was a district qualifier. Junior Keegan Green will compete at 152.
“We have great individuals returning,” Davis said. “Our young kids are eager to learn and are hard working, which leads to a good prospect for the future.”
But the Redmen are young.
“We will have some weak spots, but the wrestlers are willing to learn and work hard," Davis said. "The beginning of the season will be a lot of learning from mistakes, but by the end of the season I believe we will be a solid team.”
Rossford, which finished last in the NBC last season, has 11 letter winners back to help turn it around for coach Ron Recknagel.
Juniors CJ Ball (120), Jake Burlage (126), and senior Kyle Robbins (285) lead the way.
Ball went 32-12 last season and was second in the NBC, as well as a district alternate. Burlage (30-14) and Robbins (29-15) also were district alternates.
Recknagel also will count on freshman Spencer Shultz (106), sophomore Evan Austin (113), junior Christian Goldsmith (132), freshman Shawn Clark (138), sophomore Casey Orr (145), senior David Klocko (152), sophomore Andy Myers (160), junior Dallas Johnson (170), and senior Steve Nordhaus (195).
“We should be competitive as long as we can fill all of the weight classes,” Recknagel said.
Lake has experience in the lower and middle weights this season, according to coach Tom Jackson.
He has 20 wrestlers, five seniors, and six returning starters.
Junior Damon Keister (106) went 24-17 last season, while senior Chris Salaz (145) had a 31-16 record. Sophomore Matt Church (113) posted a 12-12 record, while senior Zach Meek (152) was 21-20.
“We have inexperience everywhere else,” Jackson said. “It should be a challenging but fun year.”