Team: WHS wrestling
Head coach: Kelly Wagener
Assistant coaches: Mike Pettit, Nick Hackman, Joe Nord, Chad Genz, Logan Brincefield, and Adam Ketcher
Captains: Jacob Steinbauer and Mason Hemze
Conference: Wright County
Class/Section: Class AA, Section 2 – Chaska, Delano, Mankato East, Mankato West, New Prague, St. Peter, Tri-City United, Scott West, Glencoe-Lester Prairie, Hutchinson, and Watertown-Mayer
2013 finish: In 2013, the Wildcats tied for third in the Wright County Conference and held an overall record of 14-8. They won six matches in six days in late January and won their first round of team section competition before falling to Scott West.
In tournaments, the Wildcats finished in the top three four times. In the individual Section 2AA meet, Max Bullock and Jacob Steinbauer both qualified for state. At state, both wrestlers won their first matches before falling in the wrestlebacks.
Key losses: Just four faces are missing from this year’s lineup, including varsity regular All-Conference Honorable Mention winners Max Bullock and Riley Trnka.
Key returnees: Jacob Steinbauer returns for his senior season as a multiple state entrant and All-Conference winner. He will captain the team along with junior Mason Hemze, who received All-Conference Honorable Mention honors last season. Also back this year are All-Conference Honorable Mention wrestlers Nick Green and Owen Hemze, along with varsity regulars Tyler Wagener, Justin Schultz, Josh Reich, Eli Teeselink, Alex Logelin, Jed Waligoski, and Dylan Gluck.
“We knew coming in this year we had a solid team,” head coach Kelly Wagener said. “We’ve got 5-6 guys with a lot of experience at the varsity level.”
Unfortunately, Tyler Wagener, Mason Hemze, Teeselink, and Zach Christians are all battling preseason injuries and the Wildcats aren’t expecting to be at full strength until January.
With Teeselink, the Wildcats’ usual heavyweight, out with an injury, Waconia could be hurting in the upper weights at the beginning of the season.
“He’s probably going to be the most significant loss,” Wagener said. “But the loss of Mason is big.”
But there are plenty of other Wildcats itching for the chance to wrestle varsity.
“I’m very confident in the group of kids that we’ve got,” Wagener said.
Teams to beat: Boasting nine seniors this season, Hutchinson is the team everyone will chase for the conference.
“They definitely are the team to beat,” Wagener said.
Wagener also excepts Glencoe-Silver Lake to be strong again this season, with the middle of the conference pretty wide open.
“I think everybody’s chasing Hutch,” he said. “From top to bottom, our conference is strong.”
Goals: The Wildcats don’t want to worry too much about wins and losses this season as much as they want to focus on getting better as a team and as individuals. But that doesn’t mean that the Wildcats won’t contend for every match, and hope to make a postseason push.
“We feel very good about our chances once we’re healthy,” Wagener said.
First match: Waconia kicks off the season this Saturday, Nov. 30 by hosting the 14th annual Wildcat Duals. Waconia is slated to wrestle Shakopee at 10:30 a.m., with Milaca, Marshall, and LeSueur-Henderson in the afternoon.