As his team struggled through a 54-17 loss to Gahanna High School on Dec. 16, New Albany wrestling coach Marc Cofer had to keep a few things in mind.

As his team struggled through a 54-17 loss to Gahanna High School on Dec. 16, New Albany wrestling coach Marc Cofer had to keep a few things in mind.

First of all, this was not the same Gahanna team that finished near the bottom of its Division I sectional last season.

The Lions posted strong finishes in their first two tournaments and according to Cofer, "we knew they had a lot of really solid kids throughout their lineup."

Second, his team is young. The Eagles, who beat Galion 57-14 in the first of two matches on Dec. 16, have only one senior in the starting lineup and have several freshmen and sophomores filling strong weight classes.

"Like I keep telling the kids, if this was the sectional meet, I'd be worried, but we've got a lot of time ahead of us," Cofer said. "But it was good. Gahanna's a very solid team, a heck of a lot more solid than they were last year."

New Albany is similar to last year's squad early in the season. Like last season, the Eagles are young with just a few returning district qualifiers.

They have spent most of December getting their younger wrestlers accustomed to varsity competition.

At the season-opening Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational on Dec. 5, New Albany had two champions in Kody Doyle (152 pounds) and Matt Odierno (215), and one runner-up in Josh Park (130).

Last season, New Albany had two champions and two runners-up.

In the New Albany Eagle Invitational last weekend, New Albany took 13th place out of 21 teams as Jonathan Alder won the title. Last season, the Eagles had a surprising fourth-place finish.

"We're real young, but like I've always said, the kids do a fantastic job of listening," Cofer said. "Even between the first week of the season and now, I'm seeing a lot of different things. Things are starting to click for the kids. It just takes time to develop that, but they're catching on pretty well."

In addition to the Eagles' four returning district qualifiers, a few younger wrestlers have shown promise. Odierno and Park, both sophomores, had strong performances at UA, and freshman Nick Karzmer went 2-0 at 103 in the tri-match on Dec. 16.

Sophomore Mac Ferguson (171), who missed the UA tournament with an injury, wrestled well in the tri-match and went 1-1. Sophomore Tommy Chamberlain was fifth at UA at 140 and went 2-0 in the Dec. 16 tri-match. Chamberlain, who expects to compete at 135 for the remainder of the season, said some added muscle has helped him elevate his performance early on.

"I played varsity football this year and we just lifted a ton," Chamberlain said.

"I think I got a lot stronger in the offseason, which is really helping me, because that's what hurt me last year."

With the return of Ferguson, the Eagles head into the holiday break with a fully healthy lineup. New Albany's varsity is off for the next two weekends before returning to action with their OCC-Capital Division opener on Jan. 7 at Big Walnut with Delaware.

"You know the M.O. of our team, we just keep working and figuring things out," Cofer said. "And as the season goes on, we just keep getting a little bit better."