Low numbers not a deterrent for Panthers
The Panthers also lost nine seniors, almost half the roster.
But for coach Landon Nelson, there's still a lot of experience as they look to repeat as Class C champions.
"Any time you lose nine seniors, its a pretty big hit," Nelson said. "We don't have the numbers to fill in all of the gaps that we lost, so that's our biggest battle. Where we do have guys, we have quality kids, many of them had over 20 wins last year."
Despite not having a full squad for dual meets, eight of Nelson's wrestlers return after significant mat time a year ago.
Matt Laporte and Jake Pine reached the NYS tournament after winning Section II titles, and Gabe Fisher made it to Albany as a wildcard.
Pine, who finished the season at 29-5, graduated (he is helping out as a coach while attending Hudson Valley Community College), but Laporte and Fisher are both juniors who combined for 57 victories.
Laporte, wrestling at 113 pounds, led the team with 30 wins, including two at the state tournament. Fisher, at 120 pounds, was 27-5 for the Panthers.
A couple of other losses to graduation include Alex Hull (20-7) and Bryan Thomas (24-10). Sophomore Zoe Gress, who was 15-8 last season, is focusing more on international competition and is not expected to compete during the high school season.
"You try to look at things you can and can't control, if you have a team with good numbers across the board, it's easier to set a higher expectation, but this is completely out of our hands," Nelson said.
While the Panthers don't have many wrestlers in the small weights or big weights, the main core of the team will focus in the middleweights. Laporte will move up to either 132 or 138, as will Ethan Mattison, who was a solid 16-12 in his first year on varsity. Ryan Matteson will fight for a spot between 138 and 145 pounds, while Sam Richard will compete at 145. Senior Lucas Brogue, the only 12th grader, will hold down the spot at 152.
Laporte comes into his junior season with a career record of 86-25 and should join the 100-win club. Nolan Foster was the last one to reach the century mark two years ago.
Richard was 19-16 last season and is still looking for his first varsity tournament victory, while Brogue was 16-14 a year ago.
"It's a good group that has been together since middle school and they've always been close in weight," Nelson said. "They've bunched up a little this year."
Sophomore Aiden Scott is back after a 26-13 mark a season ago. He's set to wrestle 120 or 126 pounds after an offseason where he traveled nationwide for big tournaments. Logan Powers will look to improve on a 12-15 record in 2016, competing at 126 or 132 pounds.
A handful of newcomers are in the mix at 160 and 170, including Bryce Rodd, Roman Vyvial, Liam McGarvin and Dylan Durand. Katie Weeden, who was on varsity but didn't compete a season ago, will be at 182.
The upper weights are lacking in numbers as only Craig Sawyer is in the heaviest classes. For the opening weekend of competition, Sawyer will wrestle at heavyweight (285 pounds), but will move down to 220 quickly after that. Sawyer, who was 16-7 last season, qualified for sectionals but was unable to compete.
"Aiden, Logan and Craig have put in a ton of time in the offseason, they went to tournaments over the summer, they are hungry this year," Nelson said. "Roman, Bryce and Liam are all new, Liam wrestled in the youth levels and he's started to get it again. Roman is a good athlete who is picking things up quickly."
Nelson admits the dual meet record might not be terrific, but come tournament time, the Panthers will be near the top of the pile.
"A lot of what we do is geared toward team goals," Nelson said. "It's unrealistic to think we'll be unbeaten in duals, but repeating as Class C champions would be a good goal for us and that's one of our main goals this year."
Roster: Gabe Fisher, Aiden Scott, Logan Powers, Ethan Mattison, Matt Laporte, Ryan Matteson, Sam Richard, Lucas Brogue, Bryce Rodd, Roman Vyvial, Liam McGarvin, Dylan Durand, Katie Weeden, Craig Sawyer
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