Moeller wrestling coach James Yonushonis is excited about his Crusaders team this season.
Eight seniors return for Moeller, including three-time state placer Jacoby Ward and a 2015 state placer in Jack Meyer.
Junior Brett Bryant was also a state placer last season.
“The potential for this team is limitless,” Yonushonis said.
Area coaches seem to agree, voting Moeller No. 1 in the preseason Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll. Elder is ranked No. 2 and defending district champion Mason is No. 3. Elder and Mason won regional titles in the dual team tournament last season.
But the Crusaders seem to be the early favorite to win a seventh district title in eight years. Moeller had won six straight before Mason beat out the Crusaders in 2015.
Yonushonis, in his second season at Moeller, will challenge his team this season with a national schedule that includes what he calls top tournament in the country in The Walsh Ironman Dec. 11-12 and the No. 2 tournament in the country, The PowerAde, Dec. 29-30, at Canon McMillan High School in Pennsylvania.
“These events will help prepare us to take on local rivals Elder (Jan. 7) and Mason (Jan. 14), as well as national powerhouse St. Paris Graham (Jan. 23),” Yonushonis said. “However, the main goal for us is to be peaking in February and March for the sectionals, districts and states.”
Ward will wrestle at 152, Meyer at 220 and Bryant at 170, according to Yonushonis. State qualifier and senior Joe Hensley is back at 285 and returning state qualifier Jake Thompson is back for his sophomore season at 138.
“All look to make an immediate impact on our lineup as well,” Yonushonis said.
Elder returns 11 of 14 starters from last season, including five who have previously qualified for the state tournament. Senior captains Samuel Williams, a state qualifier in 2013 and a state alternate a season ago, Robby Oswald, and Rocco Salamone will lead the Panthers. Juniors Jake Meridieth and Connor Craig, as well as sophomores Austin Murphy, Ti’Ric Evans and Antonio McCloud are other Panthers to watch. Murphy was a district champion in 2015 at 113 pounds
Mason returns six starters from its district title team, but did graduate eight who had 30 or more varsity wins.
“This year’s team is looking to continue the success of last year while developing their own identity as a team,” Mason coach Craig Murnan said.
Two-time district champion and 2014 state placer Zack Donathan is back for his junior season at Mason and plans to compete at 126 and 132, according to Murnan.
“This will be a very young team with a tremendous amount of wrestling experience on the front end of the lineup,” Murnan said.
Perennial power Fairfield is ranked No. 4 in its 50th year of wrestling, but will battle a lack of depth – at least as the season begins.
The Indians return state qualifiers in sophomore Zach Shupp, senior Austin Sper and junior Andrew Sams, a transfer from La Salle. Seniors Hunter Jones, Josh Weaver and Jake Bria, and junior Sam Meddings are returning district qualifiers for Fairfield.
“This year’s team is lacking depth but is working very hard,” Fairfield coach Jason Laflin said. “Wrestlers have set their goals high.”
Harrison, another area perennial power in Division I, rounds out the top five with junior state placer Cory Baird back. Baird finished eighth at state last season at 106 and will begin this season at 113.
“We are excited about our team,” Harrison coach Chad Dennis said. “We have a good mix of young and old.”
La Salle, Oak Hills, Lakota West, Glen Este and Loveland are also ranked in the top 10 in Division I.
Ross is in a familiar position atop the preseason Enquirer Division II-III area coaches’ poll.
Sophomore Josh Gentry is the lone returning state qualifier for Ross and was fourth at the district tournament at 106 pounds as a freshman. Senior Tyler Young was sixth at district at 152. Ross also returns senior district qualifiers in Tyler Bell (113), Jeremy Rosenblum (285) and 2014 district qualifier Chase Sayers (182).
Western Brown is No. 2 and Blanchester is No. 3 in the smaller-school area poll.
“We are young this season, but I look for the freshmen we have to be a strong foundation for program in the next few years,” Blanchester coach Scott Nicely said. “Junior Kyle Denier is our top returner from last year.”
Denier was a state alternate last year and was a state qualifier in 2014.
Wrestlers to watch
Zack Donathan, Mason – The junior is a two-time district champion and a 2014 state placer at 106 pounds and plans to compete at 126 and 132 this season, according to Mason coach Craig Murnan.
Brandon Lucas, Western Brown – The sophomore was a Division II district champion and fifth at state at 106 pounds last season as a freshman.
Jack Meyer, Moeller – The senior was fifth at state and third at district last season at 220 pounds and will return to that weight class this season. Meyer finished sixth at district at 285 as a sophomore.
Jordan Paul, Loveland – The senior was a Division I district champion and eighth at state last season at 170 pounds and was district runner-up in 2014 at 152.
Andrew Sams, Fairfield – The junior transfer from La Salle was a Division I district champion at 145 pounds last season and was eighth at state as a freshman at 126.
Corey Shie, La Salle – The junior won the Division I district title last season at 132 pounds and was district champion and fifth at state at 120 as a freshman.
Nick Svarda, Middletown Madison – The senior was state champion in Division III last season at 195 pounds after placing fourth at district and barely reaching the state tournament.
Gary Traub, Sycamore – The senior was a Division I district champion and fourth at state last season at 195 pounds.
Davey Tunon, Clinton-Massie – The senior is an Indiana wrestling recruit who placed third at state last season in Division III at 152.
Jacoby Ward, Moeller – The senior is a three-time Division I state placer who will wrestle at 152 this season to lead the No. 1 Crusaders. Ward won district last season at 138 and as a sophomore at 132 in Division I.