The Jefferson City Jays enter the wrestling season with a little bit of everything.
There will be experience, with five starters returning. There will be youth, with eight starters being either freshmen or sophomores. And there will be talent, up and down the lineup.
"We feel like we've covered everything we need to cover in the preseason," Jays coach Phil Cagle said as Jefferson City wrapped up preparations for tonight's season opener against the Lebanon Yellowjackets at Fleming Fieldhouse. "We want to be fundamentally sound and in this opening dual, we'll see which ones we've taken care of and which ones we need to go back and work on a little more."
The five returning starters include state qualifier Corbin Howard at 120 pounds, Jacob Brune at 132, Alec Bise at 138, state medalist Logan Moriarity (fourth at 120) at 145, Jalen Martin at 170 and Isaac Templeton at 182. Bise will be the lone senior in tonight's starting varsity lineup.
"Those are five really strong returners," Cagle said. "They will be setting the tone for the rest of the team."
And the tone they've set in the preseason has been outstanding, Cagle said.
"Their work ethic is really good," he said. "This is a tough sport, if you want to be the best, you have to push yourself to work hard and they all do that. They encourage and push each other every day.'
The Jays, who have nearly 60 kids at practice, graduated seven seniors. They also lost one starter when his family moved and another to a foreign exchange program.
"We're going to be a young team," Cagle said. "We've seen a lot of improvement in the first month of practice and we're looking forward to seeing more improvement as we get into competition.
"Some of them are coming on, they need experience outside the room. They're tired of going against the same people, doing the same drills, they're ready to see what they can do. We've got some kids who can do some things this season."
Maybe do some things in the postseason?
"That's a long way away," Cagle said.
There will be a handful of schedule changes this season, including a trip to Woodford, Ky., for a holiday tournament Dec. 27-28.
"There will be several nationally ranked and multi-state champions there," Cagle said. "It will be a great test for us."
Also new is a dual at Blue Springs, where the Jays and Wildcats will wrestle in front of a school assembly alongside a college dual featuring Maryville and Missouri Valley.
In the postseason, for the first time in recent memory, Jefferson City will not host the district tournament. Instead, it has been moved to Waynesville.
"I think some of the southern coaches are already wanting to it come back here," Cagle said with a smile. "This is a great place to have it, but it might turn out to be a great thing for us. It will be a new experience for our kids and we'll try to take advantage of it, maybe we'll be able to focus on our kids a little bit more."
Action against Lebanon today begins with the junior varsity dual at 5:30 p.m. The varsity dual should begin around 6:30 p.m.