Team: Waconia wrestling
Head coach: Kelly Wagener
Years with team: 21 – 12 as head coach
Assistant coaches: Mike Pettit, Chad Genz, Logan Brincefield, and Nick Hackman. Hackman comes to Waconia from Altantic, Iowa and is the first member of the coaching staff in 12 years to also be a teacher in the Waconia school district.
Conference: Wright County
Captains: Max Bullock and Jacob Steinbauer
2011-12 finish: The Wildcats finished 2011-12 with an 11-13 overall record and also won the Mound-Westonka tournament at the end of the season. Six Wildcats placed in the section tournament, with three state entries. Jacob Steinbauer, Riley Trnka, and Davion Franklin all qualified for state and represented Waconia. All three lost in the first round of the tournament.
Key losses: Schoen Kichler, Casey Majhor, and Austin Millender were all 2012 graduates and are missing from this year’s lineup. Kichler was All-Conference while Majhor was All-Conference Honorable Mention. Also absent from the mat this season is 2012 state entrant Davion Franklin, who has transferred to Watertown-Mayer.
Key returnees: With 42 Wildcat wrestlers (a five-year high) this season, Waconia returns strength and experience in state entrants Riley Trnka (All-Conference), Jacob Steinbauer (All-Conference), as well as All-Conference wrestler Max Bullock, Honorable Mention athletes Nick Green, Mason Hemze, Owen Hemze, and Josh Reich. Mitch Green also returns for the Wildcats, along with heavyweight Eli Teeselink who missed parts of last season due to injury.
“We’re a relatively veteran team,” head coach Kelly Wagener said. “if we can get wins in the lower weights, we’ll have a pretty good year.”
Key newcomers: Sophomores Zach Buffington and Zach Christians both logged varsity mat time last season and will be helpful to the Wildcat squad this season. After missing last season due to a torn ACL in his knee, junior Isaac Kluver will return to Waconia wrestling.
Goals: Wagener’s goals for the team are lofty, but he sets them high so the team has to work harder for them. The goals include being in the top three of the conference. Wagener predicts either Hutchinson or New London-Spicer will be favored to win the WCC, but said the Wildcats, Mound-Westonka, Litchfield, and Annandale are all in the mix as well.
“We have to wrestle like I know we can,” Wagener said.
In the section, Wagener wants to be in the top four, meaning the Wildcats will have to be on top of their game to content with wrestling powerhouses like Scott West, New Prague, Hutchinson, and Watertown-Mayer/Mayer Lutheran. Another goal of the Wildcats is to be academically competitive.
With veteran experience in the middle and upper weights, Wagener predicts the Wildcats can make a splash this season is they can pick up wins in the lower weights as well.
“I think our team is a little more balanced this year,” he said. “I’m very encouraged by all the hard work.”
First matches: The Wildcats open the season with a home tournament this Saturday, Dec. 1 against Milaca, Shakopee, LeSueur-Henderson, and Marshall. Wagener is ready to see his squad on the mat and curious to see how the younger wrestlers fare. Waconia will also be home on Dec. 6.