Last season, the first full wrestling season for the Capital City Cavaliers, was a positive one.
"We took a lot of strides forward," Capital City coach Mitch Werdehausen said as the Cavaliers open their second season tonight with a home dual against Father Tolton. "We went in the right direction."
The Cavaliers were able to fill most, if not all, of the 14 weight classes in dual competition, leading to a 13-3 dual record.
"We should have a full lineup this year as well, if everything works out as planned," Werdehausen said. "We won't get to our full lineup until the first week in December, but until then, we'll just piece it together. A full lineup helps."
Capital City returns two state qualifiers in juniors Hurley Jacobs and Ian Nelson. Jacobs finished third in districts at 182 pounds, while Nelson was fourth at 195.
"They're always active in sports, they play football in the fall, which helps a lot," Werdehausen said. "They come in during the winter and help us out with the wrestling team. They just push through and they just wrestle through.
"They're always there, always on the mat when we need them."
For tonight's dual, Jacobs and Nelson will fill the spots at 220 and 285. As the season progresses, one of them could move down to fill 195.
Capital City also has options at 285 with junior Greg Porting and freshmen Brandon Sorrell and Nick Merrill.
Freshman Austin Feely will start the season at 113.
"He's wrestled for a few years," Werdehausen said.
Sterling Wheatley, a junior who lost in the bubble round at districts last season, will be at 120 against Tolton.
"He's really, really improved over the last year," Werdehausen said.
Sophomore AJ Kempker will wrestle at 126.
"He's stepping up," Werdehausen said. "He's a second-year wrestler, but he's taken great strides."
Eli Schuemann will start off at 132. However, as Capital City moves forward in the season and gets more wrestlers ready for the varsity level, those four could move down a weight class. The Cavaliers will be open at 106 against Tolton.
Freshmen Isaak Nelson and David Ashcroft will battle for a spot at 138, while junior Keaton Schrage will be at 145.
"He won a couple wrestle-offs we had for that weight class," Werdehausen said of Schrage.
Ty Wood, a sophomore, will wrestle at 152.
Rounding out the opening-night lineup for the Cavaliers are sophomore Eli Jenkins at 160, junior Ethyn Otto at 170, junior Jabari Hubbard at 182 and junior Kaleob Latham at 195.
"It all depends on how it plays out," Werdehausen said.
Capital City had 30 wrestlers compete Wednesday in an intrasquad scrimmage.
"The scrimmage went well, the kids wrestled hard," Werdehausen said. "That's what I want to see, that they're aggressive."
The Cavaliers have a large freshman class that makes up more than half their roster.
"Our middle school program, they recruit kids out of the school there and show them the ins and outs of wrestling," Werdehausen said. "By the time they get to us, they're enjoying wrestling, and our goal is to keep them enjoying it."
Werdehausen said each wrestler has his own individual goals, but the coach also has some goals in mind.
"I want to see them be tenacious the entire match," he said. "I want them to last the entire match. If we can last the entire match, we get more mat time and we get more experience."
The Cavaliers will have some new dual opponents this season after joining the Central Missouri Activities Conference. There will also be an individual conference tournament Jan. 30 at Helias.
"We'll get some conference rivalries going," Werdehausen said. "I think it's a step in the right direction, having all the schools around in a conference. It's another championship you can brag about."
Capital City will have five wrestlers on the girls team this season.
Sophomore Izzy Eitel is the Lady Cavaliers' top returner with a 7-11 record last season.
"Izzy wrestled through and had our first district win as a girl wrestler for Capital City," Werdehausen said.
Sophomore Arya Ahmed also wrestled at the district tournament after suffering an early-season injury.
Other wrestlers are freshman Emily White, sophomore Raeley Gillispie and junior Trinity Colvard.
"I think the more girls that show up and continue to wrestle, the bigger the sport is going to grow," Werdehausen said.