Having graduated four state qualifiers from a year ago, Wauwatosa's co-op wrestling team has holes to fill as it enters a new season.
But that doesn't mean coach Kent Morin isn't excited about the potential of his roster.
"I think we are short on experience this year in terms of returning starters, but the guys who look like they will fill the varsity spots have come a long way in the offseason," Morin said. "This junior class is really strong and needs to really come into their own this year."
Wauwatosa graduated Justin Folley (45-1, state runner-up at 126 pounds), Zach Miller (state qualifier at 145), Jordan Boetcher (state qualifier at 152), Lorry Venturi (state qualifier at 285), Norberto Pliego (regional champion at 170) and Sam Kratochvil (sectional qualifier at 220).
The co-op won its fifth straight regional title last season and placed fourth as a team at sectionals. Wauwatosa took third place at the Woodland Conference tournament, finishing behind Greenfield and Pewaukee.
Junior Lawrence Thomas (Tosa West) returns to lead Wauwatosa after posting a 33-15 record, winning a regional championship and qualifying for state at 195 pounds.
Thomas was pinned in 1 minute, 46 seconds by eventual state champion Jacob Raschka of Pewaukee in the first round at state and fell in 4 minutes, 33 seconds in his wrestle-back match against Logan Murdy of Janesville Parker.
Junior Cole Acker (Tosa West) also is back after going 23-12 at 132 pounds, including winning a regional title and placing fourth at sectionals.
Morin is also expecting big contributions from seniors Jared Taylor (Tosa East), Adrian Coppage (Tosa West) and Brandon Axelson (Tosa West). Other returning starters include juniors Brian Mahan (Tosa East), Lathan Hay (Tosa East), Griffin Granberry (Tosa East) and Andrew Radtke (Tosa East).
Wauwatosa also has 16 incoming freshmen, 13 of which wrestled in the middle-school program. Freshmen Dayton Lewis (Tosa East) and Ben Acker (Tosa West) will be in contention for varsity spots.
Tosa West football players Austin Ertl and Joe Shufelt have joined the program as sophomores, and Morin feels they will be anchors at the top of the lineup.
"We had 30 guys participate in our summer lifting program, so we feel good about our offseason work," Morin said. "Practices the first week have been great. The guys are really focused and working hard. It should be an exciting year as we try and win our sixth regional title in a row and strive to get multiple wrestlers to the state tournament."
Wauwatosa was scheduled to open its season with a Woodland Conference dual meet against Whitnall/Greendale on Wednesday, Nov. 30.