BENNINGTON >> Twenty-six Mount Anthony and Catamount wrestlers will descend on Virginia Beach this weekend for the 27th annual National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Nationals, being held at the Virginia Beach Convention Center starting Friday.
And many of them have been there before, so new Mount Anthony coach Brian Coon has high expectations.
"They aren't new to it and we're going down with high expectations," said Coon after the team's final practice at the Catamount club on Pleasant Street. "I think we can come back with several All-Americans. It seems more businesslike this year."
Each grade level has their own tournament — seniors only wrestle seniors and so on, while the middle school tournament is open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The high school tournaments run from Friday to Sunday, while the middle school event is one day.
Most of the Patriots' starting lineup have entered the official high school season-ending tournament, including Dylan Ross at 106 pounds, Tyson Sauer (106), Ashdin Schaefer (113), Keenan Taylor (120), Gage McLaughlin (132), Tyler Raetz (138), Chris Mayer (145), Tyler Burgess (160), Colin Crowley (170), Austin Prendergast (170), Sebastian Rocher (220) and Calvin Hayford (285).
Raetz is the only senior making the trip this season after a state championship and fifth-place finish at New Englands.
"We've done a lot of live wrestling because we took some time off after New Englands, which helped us get back in shape," Raetz said. "I think we're looking pretty good for Nationals."
Coon said he believes Raetz wrestles up to his competition.
"He has such a motor and that's why he can win the close matches," Coon said. "He believes in himself and he's going [to Virginia] to win. He's wrestled better in the last two weeks and he's getting to a peak now."
In last year's tournament, Schaefer went 4-2 as a sophomore, finishing one match short of the placement round.
"[I feel that] Ashdin is going to get on the podium," Coon said. "He's always 1 match away, this will be a difference in him being a New England champion next year, he has to go and prove he can do it."
Four freshmen will compete — Sauer, Mayer, McLaughlin and Taylor — all wrestled at Nationals.
"Tyson knows what it's about and Keenan has the ability to [make it through]," Coon said. "He could go down and shock people."
The middle school tournament will have 14 Catamount competitors, including Hayden Rabideau — a fifth-place finisher and middle school All-American. In 2015, the sole All-American at the high school level was Troy Gassaway.
The rest of the roster includes: Landon Davis, Christian Burdick, Kyle Hurley, Jack Ware, Adam Frost, Gaige Crandall, Logan Sprague, John Decker, Tanner King, Keegan Coon, Sam Wilkins, Stephen Brillon, Payton Sharby and Noah Call.
"There's a lot more middle school kids than before, that's good for the future," Raetz said.
"Some could be a little shell-shocked, but a couple of wins could help them in the tournament," Coon said. "I think the kids would be disappointed if we don't come back with some All-American [awards]."