December 08, 2010 | 08:37 AM
Last year, the Badger wrestling squad sent heavyweight Joe Cychner to state and seven grapplers to sectionals.
Cychner along with Tyler Conrad (171) and Bryce Bobula (189) have moved on, but the Badgers return a wealth of talent to a team that finished fourth in the Southern Lakes Conference last year.
Head coach Shane Koehl said while the entire lineup isn't officially set, he has a lot of talent.
"We will be a solid dual meet team," he said. "We hope to be at full strength soon, but we currently have plenty of guys that will be good."
Leading the pack will be senior John Leibforth, a 145-pound bulldog who made it to state as a sophomore but had an injury-plagued junior season. Leibforth said he skipped playing football to rest up for the wrestling season. He is a two-time SLC champion.
Other returners include sophomores Chris Oberholtzer (119), Tyler Kreplan (125) and Rory Shine (152); juniors Ed Ruzga (189), Trevor Hagmeier (130) and Tom Cychner; and seniors Leibforth, Dylan Peter (160), Branden Allen (215), Brad Nugent (275) and Mike Ezelle (145). Newcomers are freshman Matt Reynolds, sophomore Taylor Hildenbrandt, Andy Cychner, freshman Michael Coyne and juniors Eric Winger and Kyle Marriner.
Peter was a conference champ a season ago.
So far, Koehl has enjoyed the example set forth by his seniors.
"Dylan, Brad, John and Branden have been very solid," Koehl said. "They have been working real hard. There is great senior leadership, and we have talented younger guys."
The SLC is stacked this year, according to Koehl. However, he is confident his team can challenge for the title.
"With good teams like Elkhorn, Wilmot, Burlington and Delavan, every dual meet will be a battle," he said. "Our goal is to finish in the top two. It will all be based on matchups. Every team has so much balance. Our conference duals will be close matches."
As for individual goals, Koehl believes his guys could very well wrestle at Madison.
"If we don't get multiple wrestlers to state, it would be disappointing," he said. "Our guys must make each other better every day. So far, they have done really well."
Badger travels to Burlington Thursday at 7 p.m.
Badgers take Parker Invite
Koehl said going into Saturday's Janesville Parker his squad wanted to win.
They had placed second in the six-team tournament the last two years.
His wish was granted. Badger went 5-0 on the day with dual wins over Lake Mills, Parker, Beloit Turner, Martin Luther and Brookfield Central.
And these weren't exactly nail-biters. The Badgers won by an average score of 61-17, including a 72-3 win over Martin Luther and a 65-9 defeat of Turner.
In the Parker match, a 51-16 blowout, Randy (140) and Rory Shine (160), Leibforth, Allen, Peter and Nugent all scored pins.
Oberholtzer also grabbed a decision victory at 119.