The magic of mat attacks has returned, as the 2012-13 prep wrestling season officially got under way on Wednesday night.
A number of local schools -- especially Lakeview and Bronson -- are hoping to reach great heights this campaign. Meanwhile, several others have their sights set on going from middle-of-the-packers to league heavyweights; and there are additionally some who are in the rebuilding process.
There are also several coaches with oodles of experience in the area -- Harper Creek's Dave Studer is in his 46th season, Maple Valley's Chris Ricketts is in his 40th, Homer's Mike Eldred is in his 32nd and Bronson's Al Sosinski is in his 30th -- along with a few new head coaches who are making their debuts.
All in all, excitement on the mats is anticipated at every match and tournament.
And ultimate goals for programs will be to have their units qualify for the MHSAA Team Championships that are back in the Cereal City once again this season, on Feb. 22-23 at Kellogg Arena; and to have one or more of their wrestlers pin down spots in the MHSAA Individual Championship set for Feb. 28-March 2 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Following is a rundown of all of the city and area prep wrestling programs this season, starting with the city schools, in alphabetical order. It should be noted that with no wrestling programs this campaign are St. Philip, Albion, Bellevue and Tekonsha; and that the Athens/Climax-Scotts co-op squad will once again compete in the Big Eight Conference.
Battle Creek Central
Coach: Louis Politte (7th year).
Last year: 11-13 overall, now-senior Steven Caldwell was ind. state qualifier at 171.
Top returners: 152/160-Steven Caldwell (Sr.), 285-Jace Trevino (Jr., 24-15 last year at 285), 119-Jameson Browne (So, 18-14 last year at 112), 103-David Smith (Jr.), 140-Deandre Webb (Sr.), 171-Jacob Taylor (So, 28-1 last year at 160 on JV).
Top newcomers: Coach says several, not sure who will step up and fill varsity spots yet.
Says coach Politte: "I am excited about this team. We have a lot of new faces, and I see a lot of guys with leadership potential. Our goal is to win as much as possible, and to represent Battle Creek Central with pride and class in the classroom, in the community and, of course, on the mat.''
Coach: Dave Studer (46th year).
Last year: 6-13 overall.
Top returners: 135-Jacob Bishop (So.), 140-Jessie Echtinaw (Jr.), 140-Matt Krutsch (Sr.), 145-Tyler Robinson (Jr.), 152-Robert Nelson (Sr.), 125-Colten Eishen (Sr.), 152-Joey Ramos (So.), 189-Josh Hughes (Sr.), 215-Mike Zingaretti (Sr.).
Top newcomers: 103-Luke Browne (Fr.), 103-Mitch Coon (Fr.), 112-Hunter Peri (Fr.), 285-Caleb Masten (Fr.).
Says coach Studer: "The team is a combination of seasoned and young wrestlers, which we hope to blend into a competitive team. So far they have been a very hard-working group, with good basic skills.''
Coach: Chris Dunham (6th year).
Last year: 27-5 overall, 7-0 and SMAC East champ, All-City champ, district champ, 5 returning qualifiers (D.J. Glidden, Ross Pennock, Max Pennock, Ranuel Packer, Rodney Harvey -- with Harvey placing 4th at 189 at state meet).
Top returners: 189-Rodney Harvey (Sr.), 145-Ross Pennock (Sr.), 152-Max Pennock (Sr.), 171-Ranuel Packer (Sr.), 160-Jacob Harvey (Jr.), 285-Chaz Meredith (Jr.).
Top newcomers: 103/112: Lal Sang (So.), 103/112: Hayden Larochelle (Jr.), 119-Brandon Rose (So.), 130-Colin Read (Jr.), 135-Blake Wilson (Sr.), 215-Cole Winters (So.).
Says coach Dunham: "As a team, our expectation is always to wrestle every match tough. We are looking to repeat much of our success from last year by winning the All-City, the SMAC East and a district title. We would like to continue to be in the top teams at the league meet and, hopefully, be in a position to compete at team regionals. Individually, we hope to get six or seven to regionals, with three or four making it to the state meet.''
Coach: Matt Koyl (5th year).
Last year: Middle of pack KVA (Pennfield has had an all-state/state placer in each of the last three seasons and coach says school should have at least one more this year).
Top returners: 112-Taylor Brown (Sr., captain), 125-Austin Tuttle (Sr., captain), 189-Justin Parker (Sr., captain).
Top newcomers: Koyl said the team has a terrific freshman class with tons of talent and potential, and believes that all of the young guys will be competitive right off the bat and all will have great careers in the long run.
Says coach Koyl: "I have quite high expectations this year, as we are a young team but beaming with talent. The freshman class has really filled in the team's weaker spots and made our practice room very competitive. Rarely does a coach get lucky and have a super-talented class and have them spread out throughout the lineup. Our first few competitions will really give us a good idea of where we stand, but having been around wrestling for nearly 20 years, I feel very confident. Of course my seniors are the core of the team, and they all have what it takes to compete at the state finals. I think we will be strong contenders in the KVA, as well as anywhere we compete.''
Coaches: Climax-Scotts Jason Wade (10th year), Athens Travis Pennock (1st year).
Last year: 7-7 overall, 5th Big Eight, 1 ind. regional champ and 5th-place finisher at state (graduated).
Top returners: Austin Monk (Sr.), Travis Rupert (Jr.), Isaac Swager (Jr.).
Top newcomers: Tre Gower (Fr.), Tyler Pawalski (So.), Todd Meyers (Fr.), Cody Field (Fr.), Zach Mobley (Fr.), Tanner Nixon (Fr.), Steven Warring (Fr.), Dylan Head (Fr.), Bowen Rogers (Fr.), Aaron Caswell (Fr.), Eric Fee (Fr.), Jason Kaiser (Fr.), Weston Williams.
Says coach Wade: "We are a very young team with having only one senior. We have some good young talent and the kids are working very hard to get better. It will definitely be a rebuilding year with a lot of our freshmen in the lineup. But we're looking forward to seeing how they perform and mature as the season progresses.''
Says coach Pennock: "We are a very, very young team but we are also very talented, we have a fantastic coaching staff and we are all excited about this year and the years to come. I believe we can make some upsets and turn some heads. I just want the kids to have a fun, successful year and finish fourth or higher in the league.''
Coach: Al Sosinski (30th year).
Last year: 14-11 overall, 1st in SJV, 1 regional champ (now-senior Hunter Machus at 119), 4 inv. state qualifiers (Machus 4th, plus now-seniors Jake Littlefield and Brandon Losinski and now-sophomore Kahle Scheenks made state but did not place).
Top returners: 119-Jake Littlefield (Sr.), 125-Hunter Machus (Sr.), 130-Kahle Scheenks (So.), 135-Humberto Martinez (Sr.), 140-Joe Albarran (Sr.), 145-Brandon Losinski (Sr.), 160-Dan Erwin (Sr.), 171-Leonardo Mora (Sr.), 189-Jordan Jimenez (Sr.).
Top newcomers: 103-Jarrett Cole (Jr.), 112-Wes Disbro (So.), 152-Jukoada Sexton (So.), 215-Brett Burtrum (So.), HWT-Skyler Riker (Jr.).
Says coach Sosinski: "We have high hopes for this season with a large group of experienced upperclassmen and a talented group of underclassmen to round out the squad. As always, our goals are to win the team state championship and place all our (individual) wrestlers at the state meet.''
Coach: Jake Lenhardt (1st year; had been assistant to former head coach Tom Sweitzer for 4 years; Sweitzer has retired after 39 years).
Last year: 10-19 overall, tie 2nd SMAC East.
Top returners: 171-Austin Siegel (Jr.), 160-Jason Woodhams (Sr.), 130-Holden Chesher (Sr.), 125-Josh Powers (So.), 130-Nooh Aljabaly (So.), 189-Kelly Anzaldua (Sr.), 171-Ethan Miller (So.).
Top newcomers: 145-Chase Cousino (Fr.), 152-Randy Brown (Jr.), 189-Kegan Brown (Sr.).
Says coach Lenhardt: "We are still a very young team with only six seniors on our roster. However, we still look to remain competitive in our conference. We are also aiming for our third straight district crown, which would be an outstanding accomplishment for our program. We also expect to have some of our wrestlers place in the conference tournament as well as qualify for the state meet.''
Coach: Darrin VandenBerg (7th year).
Last year: 16-21 overall (no league affiliation).
Top returners: 171-Jesse Binkley (Sr.), 140-Jared Webb (Sr.), 145-David Parrish (Sr.).
Top newcomers: Damean Shook, Kale Schumacher, Nathan Martin, Juan Sanchez, Gary Tyler, Dustin Baker, Trent Williams, Hunter Sandberg.
Says coach VandenBerg: "This should be an interesting year. We are very young, but bring a lot of enthusiasm and hard work to each practice. We are expecting to fill most of our weight classes and be very competitive within our schedule. Binkley is our only returning regional qualifier and was knocked out in the blood round last year at state ... Jared Webb was our most improved wrestler last year ... and David Parrish will look to turn things around. And we are very excited to see what our younger kids can do. In practice, there are some kids that show a lot of promise.''
Coach: Dan Phillips (4th year).
Last year: 4th KVA, 1 ind. state qualifier (graduated).
Top returners: 171-Evan Curtice (Jr.), 160-Hunter Chilton (Jr.), 285-Blake Mast (So.), 140-Cameron Hudson (So.), 135-Kenmark Maligat (Sr.), 140-Aaron Addison (Jr.).
Top newcomers: 119-Brogan Smith (Fr.), 103-Robby Madden (Fr.), 140-Jake Reed (Fr.), 160-Cody Reed (Fr.), 215-Calob Montes (So.).
Says coach Phillips: "We have high expectations for our team. As a team, we are very young with only four seniors. Some would see this as a weakness, but we see it as a strength and an opportunity. We are very excited to see how much we can accomplish this year.''
Coach: Todd Skinner (1st year; coached in and out of state since 1996 as assistant).
Last year: 1-15 overall, last KVA, 1 returning ind. state placer (transferred).
Top returners: 152-Cody Dunnithan (Sr.), 171-Jeremy Nelson (Sr.), 119-Mike Underwood (Jr.), 130-Devon Underwood (So.).
Top newcomers: 189-Taylor McNally (So.), 215/HWT-Cole Wightman (Fr.), 160-Nate Wilson (Fr.).
Says coach Skinner: "We have put together a great coaching staff, and with the help of other coaches and the community, we are looking to rebuild the program to where it once was. We know we have a ways to go, but with the kids that are in the room now it shouldn't take us long to get there. We are looking forward to a successful season.''
Coach: Travis Reardon (2nd year).
Last year: 10-15 overall, tie 2nd SMAC East.
Top returners: 130-Kyle Kellogg (Sr.), 145-Addison Jennette (Sr.), 112-Cole Nesti (Sr.), 140-Kemps Miller (Jr.), 152-John Neumann (Jr.), 140-Coleman Gibson (Jr.).
Top newcomers: 160/171-Lucas Slater (Jr.), 215-Gavin Pennock (So.), 135-Ryan Tomer (Jr.), 160-Luis Acevedo (Jr.).
Says coach Reardon: "Our team hopes to utilize the experience of its junior and senior wrestlers. The team is small in both numbers and physical size, and success will depend on how well we can manage holes in the lineup. Individually, Kellogg and Miller hope to make their runs at the state tournament after having suffered bitter losses in the heartbreak round of individual regionals last season.''
Coach: Mike Eldred (32nd year).
Last year: 13-12 overall, 5th Big Eight, 1 ind. regional qualifier (now-senior Tyler Prater).
Top returners: HWT-Tyler Prater (Sr.), 125/130: Matt Banks (Sr.), 215-James Blair (Sr.), 119-Garrett Warner (So.), 160/171: Dakota Waring (So.).
Top newcomers: Coach says several.
Says coach Eldred: "We finished pretty strong last year and we're hoping to start out this season where we were at late last season. Our goal is, we'd like to finish in the top three in the conference.''
Coach: Chris Ricketts (40th year).
Last year: 13-12 overall, 4th KVA.
Top returner: Austin Davis (Jr., placed 1st in league last year at 112, 3rd in districts).
Says coach Ricketts: "We don't have a lot of team strengths except for numbers in our upper weights, which helps in practice. We are very inexperienced as eight of the 21 kids out are new with only two freshmen. We look to improve and hopefully make an impact at the end of the season.''
Coach: Mike Fitzpatrick (2nd year).
Last year: 6-23 overall, 2-6 SMAC East.
Top returners: 135-Bobby Owens (Jr.), 140-Nate Kraska (Sr.), 112-Kiefer Bartlett (So.), 119-Chris Hall (So.), HWT-Madison Hautau (Jr.), 152-Jadon Austin (So.), 171-Will Mason (Sr.), 152-Brett McDonald (Jr.).
Top newcomers: 125-Parker Votava (Fr.), 130-Justin Saari (So.), 220-Drew Maisner (Jr.), 189-Isaac Sturdevant (Jr.), 103-Erik Doane (Fr.), 103-Will Nash (Fr.).
Says coach Fitzpatrick: "I'm hoping to build on the positives from last year and keep growing the program. We have a core of returners who are dedicated to getting better and improving all of our new wrestlers. One of our goals at Marshall was to get involvement in our program to grow, and our numbers are better than last year. Of course, that means a lot of new faces and brand new wrestlers. As I look around the room at practice, I see a room full of great athletes ... a great group of kids. My goals are the same as they were when I started: Build a team that feels like a family and strive to help each individual reach their potential as a wrestler. We also still have the benefit of coach Jare Klein on our staff, who brings a wealth of knowledge to us.''
Coach: Jeff Smith (4th year).
Last year: Low finish in KVA (gave up 7 weight classes walking in the door); also, now-senior Cam Murphy is 3-time regional qualifer.
Top returners: 145-Cam Murphy (Sr.), 171-Scott Cook (Sr.), 189-Corey Huffman (Sr.), 215-Rick Mckim (Sr.), HWT-Jared Calkins (Jr.).
Top newcomers: 103-Wyatt Autrey (Fr.), 130-Tyler Houck (So.).
Says coach Smith: "We are looking for a good season with our upperclassman lineup. We are able to put more guys on the mat this year as opposed to last season. Our underclassmen look promising. Overall, I think we will do well as a team, and several of them should have a very good postseason. I'm also looking for a trip to The Palace for Murphy.''
Coach: Jeff Wilkins (12th year).
Last year: 14-14 overall, 4th Big Eight, 1 state qualifier (now-graduated); 3 regional qualifiers, including now-senior Nate Smith and now-junior Dalton Hard.
Top returners: 171-Nate Smith (Sr.), 152-Tyler Smith (Sr.), 145-Dalton Hard (Jr.), 140-Luke Wiser (Jr.), 135-Hunter Winger (Jr.), 130-Jacob Massey (Sr.).
Says coach Wilkins: "This year we are looking to improved on our league finish from last year and to get another district title. We are hoping to get four or five wrestling to the state meet this year and bringing back some state placers.''
Coach: Ed Sybesma (7th year).
Last year: 7th Big Eight.
Top returners: 152-Taylor Howard (Sr.), 140-Tyler Howard (Sr.), 215-Scott Alwood (Sr.), 112-Matt Vaccaro (Jr.), 130-Jared Shepard (Jr.), 135-Aaron Watson (So.).
Top newcomers: 119-Tristan Banks (Fr.), 125-Ben Dart (Fr.), 125-Logan Dowell (Fr.), 160-Branson Turley (Fr.).
Says coach Sybesma: "With five returning league placers and a number of impressive freshmen, we expect to return to the upper levels of the Big Eight. Our competition during the season will give us a good indication of how many of our wrestlers have an opportunity to advance and place at the state meet.''