Wrestling is back in the City League.
The league’s coaches and athletes welcome the return of the sport since it was eliminated from the Toledo Public Schools in 2010 as part of budget cuts.
"It took a lot of effort," said Waite coach Shane Kokensparger, who, along with several others, campaigned to have wrestling reinstated. "It keeps kids in TPS and helps keep kids out of trouble. It's definitely an asset."
Now the work on the mat becomes the focus for the six CL schools.
All of the teams have been affected from a competitive and inexperience standpoint by not having wrestling for three years.
Wrestlers from Waite and Bowsher spent time during the summer participating in summer camps.
The Indians, with more than 40 wrestlers, are considered the frontrunners for the league championship.
Rogers coach Bradley Stanton said Waite is clearly the team to beat.
"They're really the only team in the City League with wrestlers with any experience," Stanton said.
Here is a look at the teams in predicted order of finish:
Waite entered this week with an impressive 10-4 dual meet record, which includes placing high in two tournaments.
Krys Young, junior at 113 pounds, has been an early-season bright spot. He's 12-1 with 12 pins and has been named the most valuable wrestler in two tournaments.
Senior Roqueit Jackson (285), juniors James Johnson (152), Jose Compos (126), Nick Jensen (170), Elias Moreno (145), and Juan Moreno (132), and sophomore Donte' Nelson (160) are also being counted on to help the Indians make a strong return to the mat.
"I want us to be able to go out and compete every day," Kokensparger said. "Our goal is to go out and compete in every meet and finish in the Top 10 in tournaments."
Young, Compos, and Johnson have the potential to make a run at qualifying for the state tournament.
Brandon Wagner (120), Tristan Snider (132), Talmage Jones (138), Jacob Cloyne (152), and Josh Kendal (220) will also be counted on as key contributors for the Indians.
Bowsher figures to be the strongest contender to Waite.
Rebels coach Chad Wojciechowski has enough wrestlers to fill a complete starting lineup, which is something some CL teams may struggle to do.
"Despite our lack of experience, we have 25 kids coming to practice and working hard every day," Wojciechowski said. "We should be very capable of finishing in the top three of the City tournament, and only getting better in the upcoming years."
Stevie Johnson (215), who opened the season with an 8-2 record, and Nick Karnowski (171), who is 8-3, are two looking to contend for CL titles.
Chris Steward (160), Jabriel Sears (106), David Amy (126), Terry Houston (132), and Richard Sackrey (138) are also expected to come on strong.
Scott coach Roshawn Jones is another coach working with inexperienced wrestlers that has him encouraged about a bright future.
"No one is experienced," Jones said. "It's going to be hard, but all we can do is just jump right in and get them some experience."
He filled his roster by reaching out to the football team for athletes he felt capable of making the transition to competing on the mat.
Junior Dakari Adams (22) has held his own through the first part of the season, finishing third at the Northwood Invitational. Junior Glen Joyce (160) placed sixth at the event, while senior Deangelo Gaston (182) finished sixth.
Sophomores Derrick Wells (152) and Daquan Saunders (145) have displayed strong potential.
Jones, a Start graduate and two-time state placer, said the mission for the Bulldogs is clear.
"The goal is to get them some experience, teach them sporting morals, discipline, and self-confidence" Jones said. "It's the first year, so we also want them to have fun."
Rogers coach Bradley Stanton also reached out to the football team to recruit players.
He said most of his wrestlers started practice at the novice stage.
"It's going to be a big struggle to get back on our feet, but I think we can do it," Stanton said. "They were green and unknowledgeable about wrestling."
Senior John Elzalde (285), juniors Jason Phenix (170) and Devin Kerr (195), and freshmen Bryson Powell (170) and Nick McLemore (126) have shown the most promise.
Phenix is perhaps the top wrestler at this stage in their development.
"Jason Phenix has natural talent," he said. "His body is ready to go and he's picked up the moves. I look for him to be a City League champion."
Stanton, a Clay graduate, is encouraged by the team's enthusiasm and steady progress.
Start coach Justin Kruczkowski is fighting an uphill challenge of coaching a team that lacks seasoned wrestlers.
However, the Spartans' inexperience is led by a core group of seniors including John Kennedy (145).
Brandon Hand (170), Tyler Cox (182), Tyler Braatz (145), Aaron Edwards (220), and Matt Huss (106) are also potential contenders in the CL.
"We see a lot of growth and promise for the future," Kruczkowski said. "The team is young, but they have been battling."
Woodward lacks experience and lacks numbers in comparison to the rest of the league.
Building a program is the top priority for Polar Bears coach Dan Smith.