Workouts have been going on for weeks if not months for many of this year's crop of Northview wrestlers who open the season today at the Bloomington North Quad. This year's team looks to have a bright future despite some key losses.
The reason fans can expect good things from the team this year is a solid group of returning grapplers who have postseason experience.
Northview returns no fewer than seven wrestlers with extensive varsity experience, including three sectional titlists.
Senior Justin Wilson competed at 189 pounds last year and finished with a 21-14 record and a sectional title. Wilson advanced to regionals where he dropped his first round match. However, his leadership will be important since he is just one of three seniors on a youthful Knight squad.
Doug Porter will likely bump up to 160 pounds after competing at 152 last year. Porter is also a sectional winner and had a 17-17 mark last season. Porter also lost his first round regional match but by an 11-7 score.
Austin Staley has had the most successful post season mark of returning Northview wrestlers. Staley won a sectional title last year at 119 pounds as a sophomore and won his first regional match by fall before losing his next two. Staley went to semistate as a freshman and had a 27-11 record last season, losing 8-5 in his consolation bracket match to take fourth place.
Derek Mroczek was 22-14 last year as a sophomore when he was second in sectional competition. He lost his first round regional match but the experience should be invaluable to the young Knights.
Also bringing letterman status back to the team this year is Tony Sambria who lettered last year at 215 pounds and compiled a 9-13 mark headed into sectionals. He will likely return to compete at the same weight this season, but could also see action at heavyweight.
Travis Harmon was at 160 last season when he was 5-16 before sectionals, he could very likely drop down a class to see some time at 152 for this year.
Sophomore Brent Withers compiled a 9-17 mark into the post season last year and was third in sectional competition. His experience as a freshman will likely help him improve that mark for the 2002-03 season.
Jeremiah Allen and Jeremy Anderson lettered last year and will see varsity action this year. Allen will likely fill the 171 pound slot while Anderson will come in at 160. Junior Thomas Lucas will compete at heavyweight for Northview this year.
Another bright spot for Northview this year will be the addition of several freshman and sophomores who could help the Knights fill some of the lower weight classes that went empty last year.
"We have a chance for some freshman to step in this year," said coach Don Bryan. "We've got some good numbers this year and we'll be able to fill nearly every class which we haven't been able to do for awhile."
Sophomore Keanon Dickison has a good shot at seeing varsity time at the 135 spot while freshman Whitney King may come in at 112. Freshman Austin Nicosin will see some time in the 103 pound class.
Any way you look at this year's group of wrestlers, youth will be a big key to the Knight's team success. The squad has eight wrestlers who are sophomores and could see varsity time and nine freshman who will be on the junior varsity or varsity. However, despite the youth movement, coach Bryan believes the team's experience will come to the front. "We have 12 kids with varsity experience. We have a young team but they have some experience coming into this year."
A couple of tough holes to fill will be at 135 and 140 where Nate DeVore and Chris Bray competed last year.
DeVore was 19-10 last year at 135 and was second in sectional competition. He has since moved to the state of Washington leaving Dickison to occupy some big shoes.
Bray was also second in the sectional and finished with an 11-17 mark but did not return to the team this year. Staley will move into his spot at 140 pounds.
The Knights should be even better this year with more experience than last year. But how the team does as a whole will depend on how the younger members of the squad come along throughout the season.