With so many athletes missing due to injuries, ineligibilities and illnesses, the Bobcats true wrestling lineup won't be seen for a few weeks.
That is one of the reasons why new head coach Mike Mann is focusing on the finished product rather than the early season meets.
"Last year, we did not finish the season well at all," Mann said. "Our theme this year is to finish."
The Bobcats should be strong in the heavier weights thanks to the return of seniors Pedro Gomez and Matt Vandegrift and junior Derek Mann. Junior Justus Bjelland also looks to make an impact after going undefeated at the junior varsity level last season.
"I am going to look at our seniors for leadership this year," Coach Mann said. "We have a lot of guys returning to the lineup, too, and that will be good to build on."
Gomez placed fifth at state as a sophomore and went 21-2 during the first half of the season a year ago but was academically ineligible the final half of the season. Coach Mann hopes that serves as motivation this year but wants to put the past in the past.
"He just needs to forget about the past and start over," Coach Mann said. "If he just focuses on wrestling and not about what happened last year, everything will work out. People kind of forgot about him though. That's perfectly OK by us."
Gomez is not among the top 10 ranked wrestlers at heavyweight in Class 3A, according to the Predicament's preseason rankings. That also is something that doesn't bother Coach Mann.
"Pedro should be ready to eat nails," he said. "If he is going to do what he says he is going to do, then it should be fun watching him mow down some of those ranked guys."
Bjelland is penciled in as the starter at 220 but suffered a car accident recently, while Vandegrift went 28-16 last year and is expected to start at 195 but is currently out with mono. Derek Mann will hold down the starting spot at 180, as well.
"Justus went undefeated last year at the JV level, so his time to step up is now," Coach Mann said.
The other returning starters this season include senior Colten Phillips (120) and sophomores Jordan Paone (126), Josh Sowers (132) and Ben Rebik (145). This foursome should solidy the lower weights in the lineup along with freshman Doston Harrelson at 106 and senior Alec Gill at 113.
"Rebik, Sowers and Paone all learned valuable lessons last year as freshman," Coach Mann said. "I hope they turned the corner. We are hoping that being older results in more success this season."
The middle weights are expected to be filled in by freshman Josh Edel (152), Peyton Williams (160) and freshman Paden Himes (170).
Freshman Seth Heinrichs will start the season at 138 until senior Zach Slocum returns from a knee injury suffered during seven-on-seven this summer. Gill went out for wrestling his freshman year but did not wrestle the past two seasons.
"We are going to go back to the basics in the early part of the season and really focus on the single- and double-leg takedowns," Coach Mann said. "The headlocks and the fireman's carries are nice, but the best guys execute and score points with the single- and double-leg takedowns."
The lone state qualifier last year was David Hughes but he graduated. Hughes went 2-2 last year, coming just one win away from a place on the medal stand.
Coach Mann will be making his varsity coaching debut tonight when the Bobcats face Ankeny at the Roundhouse. He had been an assistant on the Bobcat coaching staff since 1998.
"I have a lot of feelings leading into tomorrow night," said Coach Mann, who admits he will have forfeits at both 220 and 195 against the Hawks. "I am nervous and excited at the same time. Things always start with a bang when you first start out and then you have to deal with injuries and illnesses and academics. The lineup we put out there against Ankeny will not be what the lineup will be when the season ends. There are a lot of parts missing right now."
The Bobcats will compete in the Central Iowa Conference's Northern Division along with Mason City, Fort Dodge and Ames. The division champion will be based on round-robin competition between the four schools.
"I would say based on last year that Fort Dodge and Mason City are probably the favorites to win our division," Coach Mann said.
Marshalltown and Ankeny will get things underway tonight at 7:30 p.m. The junior varsity will feature 22 matches starting at 6:30 p.m.