Despite the graduation loss of state champion Sean Mappes and state qualifier Brock Warner, veteran coach Cale Hoover is confident the Center Grove wrestling team will again figure prominently in the postseason.
Especially if strength in numbers is an advantage.
With 61 wrestlers, the 2012-13 roster is easily one of the largest — if not the largest — in team history.
“By far the largest number we have had in my seven years at Center Grove,” Hoover said. “Over 40 are (freshmen and sophomores). We are excited about the mix of experience and youth.”
The Trojans will be led by two returning state qualifiers, seniors Anthony Schoettle (120 pounds) and heavyweight Drew Ponder. Schoettle placed eighth at 113 last year, while Ponder was eliminated in the first round.
Others expected to contend for postseason success are seniors Ceasar Gonzales (106), Nathan Carmichael (126), Dallas Pruett (138), Saul Fisher (145), Dalton Wheeler (160) and Damien Stone (220).
Junior Tyler Fleener (132), Mat Kelly (152), Chapman Johnson (182) and Josh Kuechler (195) are expected to start, as is sophomore Zach Blevins at 113.
“We have a strong senior class who will dominate the starting lineup and many talented young guys who will push them for spots,” Hoover said. “The key will be to replace the loss of leadership, but this group of kids has been willing to do everything we have asked and have had a great attitude.
“We are looking forward to competing and measuring where we are at.”
A longtime state power, veteran coach Bob Hasseman’s team returns several starters, including senior Luke Kriech, runner-up at 152 pounds at the IHSAA Individual State Finals.
Kriech was nipped 2-1 in the title match.
“We have a lot of returning lettermen,” Hasseman said.
Also returning for Franklin, which lost only three seniors to graduation, is junior Skyler Lykins, who was a state qualifier two years ago, and sophomore Jacob Stevenson, a state qualifier last season.
Juniors Conner Tolley, Payton Reese, Dakota Wyrick and Matt Wyrick also figure to be among the area’s top performers.
Although the Woodmen have only three seniors, one of those is two-time semistate qualifier Jonah Thompson (145).
Also back for Greenwood is junior Bailey Schober (126), who qualified for the semistate as a freshman.
Coach Chris Campbell is confident Thompson and Schober can qualify for the state meet.
The Woodmen also expect solid seasons from senior Jake Lennon and juniors Ryan Noble, Lane Johns, Anthony Miller and Jon Schrader.
Sophomore Brad Royalty also is expected to be among the Greenwood’s strongest performers.
Campbell, who is in his 16th season in two different stints as the Woodmen’s coach, said he’s not certain about who will fill what weights spots.
“The other weight divisions will be filled with last year’s junior-varsity wrestlers or incoming freshmen,” Cambpell said. “But we will be solid in the middle of our lineup.”
Per usual, numbers won’t be a strength for Indian Creek, which fields one of the area’s smallest teams.
But the Braves often are one of the most potent, and second-year coach Pat Dowty doesn’t expect that to change despite having only nine wrestlers.
“We’re going to be young and may take our lumps,” Dowty said, “But I think we’ll have a team that’s going to be pretty good in the invitationals and tournaments. That’s where we’ll have our success.”
The Braves’ top returner is senior Tyler Hupp, a two-time state qualifier. He is expected to again be among the state’s top performers at 132 pounds.
“We’re excited about his chances this season,” Dowty said. “Tyler’s going to be our leader, and we hope the other guys can learn from him and apply it to the mat.”
Also returning for the Braves are juniors Thomas Blessing (106), Zach Gratton (120) and Austin Wethington (182).
Sophomores include Hupp’s younger brother, Devin, at 113, Taylor Kirkoff at 145, and Trevor Atkins, a transfer from Franklin, at 126.
“I just wish our numbers were spread out a little more,” Dowty said. “But it’s going to be an interesting year, and I think we’ll do well once the season progresses.”
Although the Warriors have only three seniors, they have a larger roster than last year, which veteran coach Dave Thompson said in and of itself will make them more competitive.
“Our numbers are better this year compared to last year; however, we are still not very deep in the upper weights,” Thompson said. “We should fill all weight classes this season, which was an issue last year.”
For the first time in nearly 20 years, Whiteland did not advance any wrestlers to the semistate, but Thompson doesn’t expect that to be the case this year.
Senior A.J. Kelley and junior Ben Perry were regional qualifiers last season and appear poised for a longer postseason run.
“We’re young, but we are planning to make that (semistate) trip again this year and the following week to the state meet,” Thompson said.