Although three key members of South Lyon’s wrestling program were lost to graduation, coach Brian Wilson hopes his young squad can build off last year’s Division 2 district championship run.
The Lions posted an 18-8 dual match record last year, including a 3-2 mark in the KLAA’s Central Division.
First team All-Area selection and state qualifier Jameson Donahue, who finished 36-11 at 189 pounds, will be tough to replace, along with second team picks and regional qualifers John Dixon, a heavyweight who went 39-10 overall, and 135-pounder Cody Sickels, who finished 38-12.
“We’re small in numbers, but it’s going to be a quality over quantity situation,” Wilson said. “The guys I have are all pretty seasoned and have seen mat time before. I think early on in the season, when we’re trying to get guys to their optimal weights, we’re going to some lumps, but the guys will be successful.”
Wilson, however, does return senior captains Jake Race (145-152), Travis Starr (130-135) and Nick Stewart (152-160). Both Race and Starr were fourth-place district finishers a year ago.
But the Lions won’t quite be at full strength as the season opens.
“This week we’re voiding three weights, so to be able to get guys down will help with that,” Wilson said. “And I think by the time January rolls around, we’ll be in a much better spot.”
White Lake Lakeland finished tied for second last year in the KLAA’s North Division with a 3-2 record, but the team’s top two performers, William Jacobs and Andrew Bovay, both graduated.
Jacobs, a state qualifier, went 44-8 at 160 pounds, including included runner-up finishes at the KLAA Association and regional tournaments.
Bovay, meanwhile, went 40-8 and was a state qualifier at 189 pounds while taking runner-up at the regional and fourth in the KLAA.
The Eagles’ top returnee is a good one in junior Nolan Klapec, who captured the Oakland County meet and was third in the KLAA Association meet at 103.
The second team All-Area selection is joined by returnees Brian Thickstun (189), a senior, as well as juniors Michael Jacobs (152), a captain. Ethan Nanko (145) and James Cotter (125).
“We’re young, kind of like a rebuilding year since we lost quite of bit of seniors from that graduating class,” Lakeland co-coach Rob Wilson said. “We’ll see how it all comes. All you can do build on what you start until the end.”
Fellow Central Division member South Lyon East boasts six returnees after going 8-8 last season.
The Cougars will be led by seniors Joseph Adams (285), Ian Clark (152) and Preston Oakley (215), along with juniors Zach Parent (145) and Shane Patterson (189), younger brother of East coach Luke Patterson.
Sophomore holdovers Drake Lockard (171) and Jay Shah should also have an impact as East tries to get out of the basement of the KLAA Central.
“We’re looking to build upon the great season we had last year,” Luke Patterson said. “The past couple of years has been really good. Four of the starters have been wrestling the past three years. We just want to continue building on that and continuing to get better.”
The area team hardest hit by graduations and departures is Milford, a member of the KLAA West Division.
Eighth-year coach Tim Rebb will be relying upon juniors Josh Wojcik (171), Seth Wickham (135) and Marc Sclabassi (152-16) to help solidify his lineup.
First team All-Area selection David Joyner, a state qualifier at 140 with a 35-15 record, was among nine seniors who graduated.
And yet another talented returnee, senior heavyweight Brandon Krol, transferred to Hartland after going 37-7. The state qualifier captured both the KLAA Association and Oakland County titles.
Meanwhile, three other returning starters opted not to return, leaving the Mavericks senior-less.
“With all the freshmen we have, the future looks good,” Rebb said. “We are looking to gain valuable experience throughout a tough schedule this season.”