Delta won the Division III state team title last season. Top wrestlers returning are (from left) Tyler Fahrer, Jake Spiess, Dustin Marteney, and Kyle Keller.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
The makeup of Delta's wrestling team looks a lot like last year.
That group of Panthers captured the Division III state team championship.
Ten of the wrestlers who competed in the state championship final against Tuslaw — a 52-17 triumph for Delta — are back.
Four members of that team went on to compete at state individual tournament.
It all makes Delta a clear favorite to finish on top of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
"Hands down, we're a better team than last year," Delta coach Anthony Carrizales said.
Wauseon and Archbold, who also have several returners, figure to also be quite competitive.
"Delta will be very tough for anyone in our league to match up with in a dual meet," Archbold coach Brian Becher said. "I expect Delta to have close to 10 state qualifiers. Wauseon lost a good class, but will still have a solid team."
Here's a look at the teams in predicted to finish:
Delta has opened the season with an 11-0 dual meet record, which includes a 7-0 effort to win the Springfield Hoover meet just over a week ago.
Jake Spiess, sophomore at 120 pounds, is the team’s top returner. He won an individual state championship a year ago and was one of 10 winners in the final of the state team championship.
Tyler Fahrer (160), a senior, placed third at state a year ago. A three-time state placer, he finished second two years ago and seventh as a freshman.
Kyle Keller (126), a senior, is a two-time state placer who finished fourth last season. Sophomore Dustin Marteney (138) is coming off a freshman season that ended with him finishing eighth at state.
"Those are the four that return as state placers, but we've got another five or six guys who'll also make some noise at state this year," Carrizales said.
Returning individual district qualifiers Alex Dailey (113), Christian Valentine (145), Todd Miller (152) and Mark Francis (195) are members of a strong core group of veteran wrestlers.
Conner Keller (170), Devon Richard (220), Blake Parker (285) and Ross Rayfield (106) were also contributors to last seaon’s success.
"It's an environment where every individual has goals they're trying to get to and it's contagious," Carrizales said, of the Panthers' winning mindset.
Wauseon coach Mike Ritter is also working with a loaded lineup of experienced wrestlers.
Seven of the 24 wrestlers are returning starters for the Indians, who were 7-1 in league duals last year. They are 9-3 this season.
State runner-up Aaron Schuette (170) is the top returner. Wade Hodges (132) has finished fourth and seventh in his trips to state.
Alec Vonier (182), Tre Campbell (160), Gage Campbell (120) and Cameron Stallman (126) are also returners expected to have successful seasons.
Vonier and Campbell are returning district qualifiers, while Campbell was third in the league meet.
"We're more than likely going to be a better tournament team than a dual meet team," Ritter said. "It's more of a quality versus quantity theme for us this year."
Archbold returns plenty of depth from a team that produced 12 district qualifiers and four state qualifiers a year ago.
State runner-up Logan Day (145) is one of 20 returning letter winners. He was a state finalist last season with a record of 51-2.
Damian Short (120), Kenny Price (152) and Travis Jaramillo (195) were state qualifiers last season.
"We expect them to provide great leadership and the other guys follow," Archbold coach Brian Becher said.
Seniors Lincoln Parsley (152), Cory Rocha (145), Koltin Zimmerman (170), Eli Hammersmith (182) and Lee Klinger (220) provide additional team leadership. Juniors Zach Meyer (120) and Blake Baden (160) add to the experienced roster.
Bryan came on strong at the end of last season, placing fourth in the NWOAL tournament.
Keeping the momentum going is the goal for the Golden Bears.
Brock Nagle, a senior, was a state qualifier last year.
Juniors Bronson Beck, Gavin Saul, Antonio Ramos and Brett Driscoll, as well as sophomores Austin Owens and Skyler Nagel are also returners with high expectations.
"The key to this season is the week to week improvement in technique, physical toughness, and mental toughness with some of our guys," Bryan coach Josh Montgomery said.
Freshmen Adam Herold, Braden Hahn and Damon Beltz are being asked to contribute right away.
Liberty Center has eight returning starters led by seniors Mason Knipp (152), Henry Elling (132) and Trey Armbrecht (138), who were all district qualifiers last season.
"We have some individuals who can compete but we struggle because of numbers," LC coach Marc Hoff said. "Those three guys (Knipp, Elling, Armbrecht) are definitely the leaders of the team and they're wrestling well."
Colin Bollmar (120), a junior, has also been an early season bright spot for the Tigers, who are 4-7 in duals.
Patrick Henry is looking for a chance to improve from last year when it finished eighth in the NWOAL.
Returning letter winners are senior Brandon Cole (152) and sophomores Sydney Brewer (170) and Ethan Wade (113).
Montpelier coach Troy Roth expects to see improvement from a team that finished 1-7 in league dual meets a year ago.
District qualifiers and two-year letter winners Tyler Benner (160), Dan Hand (170), Cole Ries (120) and Sean Taylor (126) are the top returners.
Hunter McKelvey (152) and Tyler McDaniel (145) are expected to build upon solid freshmen efforts.
However, lack of depth and experience puts the Locomotives in a tough spot.
"We will have six of seven freshmen in the lineup most nights and that kind of youth usually doesn't sit well in wrestling," Roth said, "With the help of good senior leadership we should be able to hold our own against most of the teams we will encounter this year."
Evergreen coach Lucas Burkholder is in his third season overseeing the program.
He's working with a team made of only 13 wrestlers.
The five returners are Jarred Fahrer (106), Jake Mildenstein (126), Mason Kasefang (132), Tyler Coopshaw (220), and Marty Nichols (285).
Swanton is led by six returning letter winners, including district qualifier J.D. Reisinger (120), a sophomore.
Juniors Matt Rainey (195) and Jake Price (220), sophomores Jordan Nyler (170) and Josh Bradish (115), and freshmen Chase Avalos (145) and Christian Aumiller (152) are also expected to be league contenders.
Reisinger is 8-1, while Rainey owns an 8-2 record.
"We’re a very young team," Swanton coach Greg Hallett said. "We have no seniors and three juniors, two juniors with experience," Hallett said. "We have a lot of young wrestlers who have an opportunity to be on the mat."