The Licking Heights High School wrestling program has had a representative in the Division II state tournament for seven consecutive seasons.
To continue that streak, the Hornets will have to "mature quickly," according to sixth-year coach Bo Ramsey, because only two district qualifiers have returned from last season.
"We have a very young team that will have to toughen up early on to see some success," Ramsey said.
The returning district qualifiers are senior heavyweight Michael Zaky and sophomore Ty Yeager at 126 pounds. Last year in the district tournament at Uhrichsville Claymont, the Hornets totaled 32 points to tie London for 20th behind champion Steubenville (202.5).
Yeager won a sectional title and Zaky was third as the Hornets (100.5) finished sixth on their home mats and Licking Valley (194.5) won the team title.
"Ty Yeager was a sectional champ as a freshman last year and will be returning at the same weight class," Ramsey said. "He put in a lot of work in the offseason, including freestyle and Greco-Roman for the first time and should see a big improvement on a strong freshman year.
"Michael Zaky was a district qualifier last year after only being out for a short time. He won a match at district and should see a big improvement on that with a whole season of work this year."
Last year at state, 2012 graduate Kevin Yeager went 1-2 at 170 to finish 35-7. His three points enabled the Hornets to tie for 68th as St. Paris Graham (183.5) won its 12th consecutive title.
Also difficult to replace will be Tyler Price, a two-time state qualifier who placed fifth at district at 113 a year ago and finished 43-3. He finished his career 153-29 to rank third in all-time wins in the program.
Price was named the Wrestler of the Year in the MSL-Cardinal Division last season as the Hornets went 1-2 in the league tournament to place third behind West Jefferson (4-0) and Liberty Union (2-1).
Joining Zaky in the senior class is Brenden Tiller (heavyweight). Juniors include Mike Hopewell (220), John Neary (170), James Shaw (138) and A.J. Velasquez (220). Joining Ty Yeager in the sophomore class are Brent Bennett (160), Nick Campbell (132) and Zak Tudor (heavyweight). Freshmen include brothers Anthony Haist (106) and Brandon Haist (113), Chasen Neff (152), Tyler Peters (145), Wayne Rader (195) and Tyler Woolard (120).
Neary and Shaw have experience, and Ramsey said the freshman class is strong and will compete above its grade classification thanks to a youth program that is excelling.
"We always pride ourselves on being a top-conditioned team with kids that will wrestle hard through every match," Ramsey said. "We have had a state tournament qualifier for seven years in a row and would like to continue that streak.
"We feel like Yeager and Zaky both have strong chances at the state tournament. If we can avoid the injuries like we had last year, we feel pretty good about getting seven or eight guys making the district tournament."
The Hornets opened Dec. 8 with a 10th-place finish (153) in the 18-team Sparta Highland Kilted Klassic, which Medina (336) won.