Bloomington

Coach: Mark Gardner, 26th season (25-year record 458-129)

 

2016-17 record: 20-3, 1st in Big 12, 2nd in 2A regional

Top returnees: Sr. - Savion Haywood (44-3 at 132), Jon McCullough (33-16 at 152), Josiah Heinz (14-5 at 182), Chanse Ridgeway (37-15 at 145), Cole Bahan (14-9 at 170); So. - Ryan Gardner (42-12 at 120), Jayvon Jamison (32-16 at 106), Carson Oliger (22-21 at 113).

FYI: BHS was sixth in Saturday's 18-team Conant Tournament behind five Class 3A teams and ahead of Class 2A's No. 2-ranked Crystal Lake Central. The Purple Raiders, No. 6 in 2A, have won 10 consecutive Big 12 Conference titles. Old Dominion recruit Savion Haywood, who brought a 121-18 career record into this season, placed fifth in the state as a junior, fourth as a sophomore and sixth as a freshman. Other returning state qualifiers are Ryan Gardner and Chanse Ridgeway. This 35-man roster returns five sectional qualifiers including Carson Oliger and Jon McCullough. Among 11 returning lettermen are Josiah Heinz, Jacob Sisco, Holden Snyder, Jayvon Jamison, Cole Bahan and Ben Wright. Freshmen to keep an eye on include IESA state fourth-placer Chad Bellis and fellow state qualifiers Logan Hillard and Josh Spidle.

Quoting: "(The outlook) is kind of up in the air right now. We've got a bunch of injuries we're trying to deal with and work around. I think there is a good solid core with this group, but there are another four or five kids in the lineup that we kind of have to see how it shakes out. It could go either way with them. We are a much better tournament team than we are a dual team." — Mark Gardner

Normal Community

Coach: Trevor Kaufman, 3rd season (2-year record 30-20)

2016-17 record: 18-8, 8th in 3A regional

Top returnees: Sr. - Thaddeus Nartey (34-10 at 160), Ethan Stathem (195); Jr. - Gabe Rivera (14-10 at 145), Cole Gordon (18-15 at 285), Jadon Robinson (13-11 at 170), Alex Pappas (16-13 at 170), Josh Delgadillo (20-12 at 138); So. - Carter Owen (13-11 at 132), Abel Ninan (106), Ethan Johnson (7-2 at 220).

FYI: NCHS may have 14 men better than last year's 14 starters, but the problem is many are at the same weight. For example, there are six heavyweights along with three 170-pounders who could start for most teams. Until the Ironmen hit their target weights, their lineup will likely have holes. The middle weights should be the strength of this 39-man squad. Thaddeus Nartey, a regional champion last year, has gone 64-23 the past two seasons. He needs 20 takedowns to become the school's career record holder. He may bump up to 170 pounds. The best of nine freshmen are Jacob Ogg (220), Ben Pratt (220), Ethan Weitekamp (138) and Jacob Baker (145).

Quoting: "We want a state qualifier and I think we've got a couple kids who could do that. Thad (Nartey) was a match away from qualifying for the state tournament after winning regionals. He's got a few colleges after him, mainly JUCO, D-II and NAIA. We've talked about just improving each day. We want to win as many duals as we can, but we don't want that to be the only focus because we know we'll be a little shorthanded at first in terms of possibly forfeiting a couple weights until people get down to where they need to go. We're hoping once we hit mid-season, we're in good form and even more so at the end of the year." — Trevor Kaufman

Normal West

Coach: Adam Richards, 3rd season (2-year record 31-12)

2015-16 record: 18-4, 5th in 3A regional

Top returnees: Sr. - Aaron Shaw (31-8 at 113), Chad Lawyer (19-17 at 138), Kolton Howard (22-14 at 145), Ahmad Qahwaji (29-11 at 170); Jr. - Nick Chestney (25-10 at 120), Jacob Fuss (21-14 at 152), Dustin Miller (25-10 at 132), Joe Mohr (18-14 at 195); So. - Tyler Mackin (22-13 at 106), Zane Davis (24-9 at 182), Skyler Hufeld (30-10 at 220), Daniel Stevens (6-4 at 145).

FYI: With the return of 11 starters to a 55-man roster, the Wildcats (5-0) are ranked No. 21 in Class 3A. Ahmad Qahwaji and Skyler Hufeld are returning sectional qualifiers. Others who could contribute are junior Daniel Valdes and sophomores Demetrius Turrentine, Mostafa Khanfar and Chris Meredith. Coach Adam Richards doesn't foresee forfeiting any weights by season's end. He rates Bloomington the Big 12 Conference favorite.

Quoting: "We're optimistic for sure. Our guys have worked hard so we feel good about our team. We're pretty balanced. The biggest challenge for us is getting guys spread out (among the weight classes) so we can get our best 14 in there. We've got to get better. We want to win every time we step into the gym. If I had to predict right now, I would say our strength is probably in duals just because of our depth and the way we can cover every weight. We're very excited about where we're at right now and we're excited to see where we finish." — Adam Richards

University High

Coach: Mike Troll, 17th season

2016-17 record: 8th in 1A regional

Top returnees: Jr. - Zach Franz (25-5 at 132), Brody Kline (160); So. - Nolan Dale (138). 

FYI: With an eight-man roster (down from last year's 15), the Pioneers will forfeit more than half of the weight classes in most meets. Zach Franz, a 2016 state qualifier, is the team leader and a potential state medalist at 132. Among four freshmen is 106-pounder Kyle Carey, the brother of Dylan Carey, a 2017 state fifth-placer who graduated. Freshman 145-pounder Alex Wolford has impressed Coach Mike Troll with his work ethic and strength. U High's new conference, the Central State Eight, includes No. 12-ranked Chatham Glenwood and No. 13 Rochester. 

Quoting: "I felt last year, if (Franz) was healthy, he would have placed at state. He had a great summer. Early on (in his career), his strength was probably his defense and he's still one of the better defensive wrestlers I've seen. Over the summer, he really committed to working on his offense and it's really shown up in practice. If (Kyle Carey) continues to improve, he'll have a shot (at state)." — Mike Troll

— Compiled by Randy Sharer

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Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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