There's a new attitude surrounding Helias wrestling.
"Every coach that's here tells me the difference they see in the attitudes of the kids is night and day," first-year Crusader coach Jacob Wadley said as Helias gets set to open the season in a tri-dual tonight against Warrenton and Hannibal in Warrenton. "That's great to hear because the mental part is so huge in this sport. You can't be defeated before you even step on the mat.
"If we can have the mentality where the kids believe in the system and put forth the effort with all of their talents, it may not start out great, but sticking with it will pay dividends."
The Crusaders opened preseason practice with about 17 wrestlers, then nearly matched that total Monday when the football players arrived after their appearance in the Class 4 state championship game.
"Everything to them will be new," Wadley said. "But I know two months from now, they're be in the routine."
With the influx of new faces, deciding on a lineup for tonight's action was decided by a tournament Tuesday night.
"We were kind of forced to do that, but it's the easiest way to solve it," Wadley said. "Everybody will be in it."
Wadley said returning starters Slater Schrimpf, Jacob Schulte and Austin Schnieders have emerged as team leaders.
"They're verbal and will motivate everybody to pick it up when they think they don't have anything left," he said.
Wadley believes the Crusaders will be able to fill all 14 lineup spots on the varsity. Not that they will.
"We can, but I'm not completely confident in all of the kids we'd be putting out there right now," he said. "You don't want to defeat a kid before he really gets started."
Wadley, a former Helias wrestler who previously served as an assistant at Westminster Christian in St. Louis, said the basic wrestling style will remain the same. But fans should see some subtle changes.
"We're not getting into a lot of the details yet at practice, but there are a lot of little things and those little things add up," Wadley said. "A lot of it will look the same because I came up through this program, it's ingrained in me, but we're going to try to learn and progress.
"I hope the style we have this year isn't the style we have in 10 years, we need to evolve and grow. But for now, we have a system we all believe in and as long as we stick to that, we're only going to get better throughout the season."
The Crusaders will hit the ground running this season. After tonight's action, Helias will host Warrensburg in a dual Friday night, then host the Kickoff Classic on Saturday.
"We get it hit the season running, then take a step back and see what we need to work on," Wadley said, noting the Crusaders will have several weeks off during the holiday period. "I see them as pretty raw right now and that month will give us a chance to get a lot of quality work in."
The Crusaders don't return any state tournament qualifiers and just a few wrestlers who took part in the district tournament. But that lack of postseason success doesn't mean much to Wadley in regards to this team.
"I'm an optimist and people might think I'm crazy, but I see the talent and the desire in these kids and if we can get them to believe in the talent that I see in them, I can see us getting as many as five kids to the state tournament," he said. "Every kid that's out seems to share the same drive and motivation that I have. They're excited and I'm excited."