Groveport Madison High School wrestling coach Mark Niemann believes this season presents an opportunity to build a foundation for the future.
"With such a young team, I rack my brain in order to relay the importance of fundamentals," said Niemann, who is in his second season. "We've gone over six moves in six weeks, but they are fundamental moves. I went to (watch) the Olympic trials and what they were scoring on is what we're teaching. Our young guys have to get that down."
The Cruisers return their only Division I district qualifier from a year ago in sophomore Shakur Laney (106 pounds). Last season in the same weight class, he went 1-2 in the district tournament at Hilliard Darby to finish 28-10.
Others expected to be key contributors this season are seniors Joey Jewell (132/138), Sam Loving (152), Terry Reebs (120) and Thomas Thornton (160), juniors Briar Sayre (138) and Zander Wright (126), sophomores Brenden Finneran (182), Malcolm Solack (220) and Kyle Stover (145) and freshmen Nate Brookman (182), Eli Schleret (113) and VaShawn Walker (220).
Reebs are Stover are first-year wrestlers.
"This might be the best 30 kids in our room as far as attitude and effort," Niemann said. "They know what it means to be a Cruiser. It's about having a positive attitude, character, responsibility and unity on and off the mat. They're taking an ownership of this team."
Groveport opened Dec. 1 in the 13-team Wazie Classic at Mount Vernon, scoring 222 points to place ninth behind champion Mount Vernon (629).
The Cruisers had two top-five placers in the event, with Wright finishing second at 132 and Jewell placing fourth at 138. Jewell, Wright and Thornton currently are sidelined with injuries, Niemann said.
Last season, Groveport went 1-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division to place seventh, behind Lancaster (7-0), Pickerington North (6-1), Pickerington Central (5-2), Gahanna (3-4), Grove City (3-4) and Reynoldsburg (3-4) and ahead of Newark (0-7).
The Cruisers open their league schedule Thursday, Dec. 20, at Newark.
"I think in the league, we're right in the hunt with Grove City, Newark and Gahanna," Niemann said. "It's going to depend on who shows up with a full lineup. We will fill anywhere from 12-14 weight classes."
Groveport lost 74-6 in a dual against Darby on Dec. 6 and finished last (33) in the 16-team Panther Invitational on Dec. 15 at Pickerington North behind champion Darby (209).
Niemann said he had only seven wrestlers compete in the Panther Invitational because he didn't think most of his young and inexperienced wrestlers were ready for that level of competition.
"If you have a mentally tough kid, you can put them out there, but most freshmen can't handle that," he said.
Last season, Groveport finished eighth (40) in the 10-team sectional tournament at Pickerington Central behind champion Olentangy (249.5) and finished 37th (1) at district behind champion Marysville (174.5) as 37 teams scored.