Woodrow Wilson checked in at No. 10 in the West Virginia Wrestling Coaches Association Class AAA preseason rankings earlier this week.
Second-year head coach Matt Osborne appreciates the attention, but wonders if it might be a little premature.
"I think this year is a little bit of a down year from last year," he said. "The next three years for us are going to be really big. I mean, I hope we can live up to that, and the goal is to get inside the top 10 this year at the state tournament. We have some really good individual guys, but overall as a team, I don't think we are as strong as we were last year."
The Flying Eagles sent eight wrestlers to the state tournament and finished 13th with 56 total points. Two of those qualifiers wound up placing and are back this season, along with two others.
Most of Woodrow's personnel losses were in the upper weight classes. Kenneth Farmer (182 pounds), Seth Brown (220) and Ian Pomeroy (285) all finished third at the Region 3 tournament, and another senior heavyweight, Tristan Stiffler, signed to wrestle at Fairmont State.
Caleb Click (152) graduated after a third-place Region 3 showing.
Senior Devan Gauldin is back after a state runner-up finish at 195, and sophomore Ethan Osborne was fifth at 132. Also back are qualifiers Kaiden Radford (106) and Hezekyiah Creasy (160). Radford is a sophomore and Creasy a senior.
"We're really young overall," Osborne said. "It's good to have those guys in the mat room with the young guys we've got, so they can show them how to work and how to drill right. That was the biggest thing last year, was that these guys just didn't know how to drill. So to get them in the wrestling mindset, getting them to change gears on how they do things was big. That's something we're going to be constantly battling this year, too."
Gauldin was third in Region 3 last year but made a strong run to the championship match in Huntington. He fell to Washington's Jace Bradbury, who now wrestles at West Virginia University.
"Devan's a good athlete," Osborne said. "Hopefully he can get back to that same spot and get over the hump and win a championship. That's what his goals are, and then wrestling at the next level. I know he's being recruited right now."
Ethan Osborne had a nice freshman year — just not by his own expectations. He lost a close decision in the semifinals to eventual state champion Brayden Johnson of Parkersburg South.
"(Placing) was not his goal. His goal was to be a state champion," Matt Osborne said. "Finishing fifth didn't sit well with him, to be honest with you.
"He's dedicated. He's been hard at it. He's not stopped through all this mess (the coronavirus pandemic)."
Gauldin and Osborne, along with sophomore Jay Jones, earned All-America status at the Nuway Nationals in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Osborne said Creasy has high expectations as well.
"He is somebody we expect to be in the finals or at least place high," Osborne said. "He's somebody who has been dedicated to working out when he can. He's improved a lot. He should be really good this year."
Osborne is also expecting good things out of junior Jackson Evans, who wrestled at 220 last year but was lost to injury at the WSAZ Invitational. Evans will wrestle at heavyweight this season.
From there, the inexperience really shows up, although Radford and Jones got experience last year. Radford has added some weight after wrestling as a light 106-pounder last season.
Jones and junior Alex Webb will wrestle at 160 or 170.
Freshman Troy Harris is expected to make an impact at 120 or 126 if he can stay healthy. Another freshman, Ryan Muktar, also figures into the lineup at that weight range.
While Osborne thinks the team needs a little more seasoning, he believes the potential is there for someone to win Woodrow's first individual state championship since Matt Callahan (140) in 1999.
"I think we have more of a chance of breaking that 22-year hiatus this year," Osborne said.
Woodrow will open the season March 6 with a quad at Class AAA No. 8 Huntington. Also there will be six-time reigning state champion and preseason No. 1 Parkersburg South and No. 9 George Washington. Wrestling will begin at 10 a.m.
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