When Chance Van Gundy was hired last spring to coach the Dublin Coffman High School wrestling team, he was well aware of the challenges facing a young squad that had to replace all three of its state qualifiers from a year ago.
The Shamrocks lost eight wrestlers to graduation, including state-qualifiers Chris Mullucey (120 pounds), Ryan Murdock (126) and Joe Schulze (132), and saw their coach, Bob Stoll, retire after leading the program for 17 seasons.
"That's obviously never an easy situation to walk into," Van Gundy said. "Regardless of the experience level, we plan on being competitive. The 2012-13 season is about building a foundation for future success."
Van Gundy spent the past three seasons as the coach at Ready, where he helped Patrik Garren place third at heavyweight in the Division III state tournament last winter.
Coffman's most-experienced returnee is senior Markell Wooden (160), who won the title in his weight class in the Wazie Classic on Dec. 1 at Mount Vernon. The Shamrocks placed fifth (346 points) of 13 teams behind champion Mount Vernon (629).
Last season, Wooden went 36-11 overall at 152 and was a Division I state alternate.
Also back are senior Jared Renner (152, 14-16 last season), juniors Riley Young (heavyweight, 16-22) and Andrew Muncrief (182, 14-18) and sophomore Tristan Renner (120, 15-20).
Senior Jake Gilbert (182) also is expected to be a key contributor, Van Gundy said.
A three-time state qualifier, Murdock went 4-2 and placed fourth at state a year ago. He finished the season 45-4 and closed his prep career with a 172-24 record.
Mullucey, who went 25-7 last season, and Schulze, who finished 36-12, both went 0-2 at state, as the Shamrocks scored 13 points to tie for 36th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (223.5) as 84 teams scored.
"We are replacing several graduates who had great careers," Van Gundy said. "Markell has extremely high goals and has made a huge jump since this past fall. He's certainly a bright spot in what is otherwise an inexperienced group. But I really like the talent on this squad."
Coffman finished ninth (70.5) in the district tournament at Hilliard Darby last season behind champion Marysville (174) as 37 teams scored and won its first sectional title since 2005 by scoring 196.5 points in the 10-team sectional at Westland as Upper Arlington (174.5) was runner-up.
The Shamrocks, who will compete in the Dublin City Championships on Thursday, Dec. 13, at Jerome, went 6-1 in the OCC-Central Division last season to finish behind Hilliard Davidson (7-0) and ahead of Darby (5-2), Worthington Kilbourne (4-3), UA (3-4), Central Crossing (1-6), Thomas Worthington (1-6) and Westland (1-6).
Darby and Kilbourne moved to the OCC-Cardinal as part of OCC realignment and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty. Coffman opens its league schedule Dec. 20 with a dual at Marysville.
Irish also lacking much experience
Scioto also is dealing with an inexperienced group, as it lost seven wrestlers to graduation, including five Division I district qualifiers and its lone state qualifier, Wes King.
Last season, King finished first at 220 at district and went 3-2 and placed seventh at state to finish the season 45-6.
Among the key returnees are seniors Yoshi Akutsu (heavyweight, 21-9 last season) and Anthony Trocchio (152, 15-11).
Akutsu, who is the team's only returning district qualifier, and Trocchio won their weight classes in the eight-team Olentangy Invitational on Dec. 1, as the Irish finished sixth (59) behind champion Centerville (193.5).
In the Marysville Duals on Dec. 8, Akutsu went 5-0 even though Scioto lost all five matches, falling to Mechanicsburg 42-39, Apple Creek Waynedale 64-15, Thornville Sheridan 63-11, Dresden Tri-Valley 41-33 and Lewistown Indian Lake 66-16.
"So far, our older guys have done what we expected, but we certainly lack experience," second-year coach Aaron McKenzie said. "We've got a full lineup this season, so there won't be any forfeits. But right now, we're kind of feeding guys to the wolves, so to speak."
Other key returnees are senior Brian Arumugam (195, 11-17) and junior Cameron Wallace (160, 5-12). According to McKenzie, senior David McCruter (195), junior Nick Horvat (145) and freshmen Vaughn Billman (106), Matthew Michael (106) and Ben Shaver (113) also are expected to be key contributors.
Last season, Scioto tied for 50th (7) at state, finished 10th (68.5) at district and placed sixth (120) in the 10-team sectional at Watkins Memorial behind champion Lancaster (220.5).
The Irish went 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago to tie Westerville South for seventh, behind Marysville (7-0), Olentangy (6-1), Liberty (5-2), Westerville North (4-3), Jerome (2-5) and Westerville Central (2-5).
Liberty and Marysville moved to the OCC-Central and Olentangy moved to the OCC-Capital. Joining the OCC-Cardinal are Darby and Kilbourne from the OCC-Central and Hilliard Bradley from the OCC-Capital.
"We're probably going to be just about like we were last year," McKenzie said. "Last year, guys really did step it up in January and February. Yoshi is probably one of the best heavyweights in the area. He's had a very unique wrestling style with a lot of risk-taking, but he's starting to realize he needs to change his style."
Jerome returns three district qualifiers
Jerome returns a Division I state qualifier from a year ago in senior Brett Mowery (220, 39-6 last season) and three district qualifiers in seniors Bennett Comfort (145, 28-12) and Andrew Pearson (152, 19-17) and junior Josh Transue (113, 26-13).
Comfort won his weight class in the Wazie Classic, as the Celtics finished sixth (279). He then went 5-0 in the Big Walnut Duals on Dec. 8, as Jerome went 3-2, beating Bainbridge Paint Valley 51-30, Springfield Shawnee 42-22 and Jonathan Alder 42-16 and losing to Galion 44-24 and Galion Northmor 42-34.
"Bennett worked hard over the summer and had some great camps with some good mat time," fifth-year coach Adam Huddle said. "He's a lot bigger and stronger. We look to be toughest at the bottom of our lineup."
Mowery has yet to compete this season and likely won't return to the lineup until January because of a knee injury. Last season, he went 1-2 in his first state appearance, as the Celtics tied for 75th.
"He's been (medically) cleared (to wrestle) at the end of the month," Huddle said. "It's only going to mess with him if he doesn't get comfortable in the wrestling room. Once he gets a couple of weeks under his belt, it will translate on the mat. We've just got to give him some time to get comfortable."
Transue and his brother, freshman Seth Transue (106), also went 5-0 in the Big Walnut Duals, while junior Alec Hood (170, 13-23) and sophomore Liam Dunlea (120, 15-17) both finished 4-1.
Also expected to be a key contributor is freshman Emilio Paesano (heavyweight), Huddle said.
Jerome lost four wrestlers from a year ago to graduation, including two district qualifiers in Jack Austin (145, 35-14) and Kyle Harness (160, 30-14).
"We're feeling pretty good about our lineup for dual meets, but we're thin at the top," Huddle said.
Last season, Jerome went 2-5 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Westerville Central for fifth, placed fifth (112) in the 10-team sectional at Marysville behind champion Marysville (257) and finished 23rd (21) at district.