Carson High's wrestling team started practice Tuesday as the four-time defending Sierra League dual-meet champion.
And, with nine wrestlers, who saw extensive mat time last season, returning it won't be easy to stop the Senators this year.
Topping the list of returnees are 132-pound Cole McCarthy (31-4 and 25 pins in 2011) and 120-pound Kyle Sharp (37-10, 29). Both wrestlers placed fourth at last year's state meet.
Three other state meet participants also are back: 113-pound Sam Mercado (22-15, 11), 170-pounder Jordan Luhrs (20-13, 15) and 182-pound Brady Rivera (13-14, 8).
That's not a bad nucleus to start with. And, when you throw in 138-pound Nick Lanni (30-12, 20), 160-pound Colby Brown, 195-pound Javier Torres (13-17, 8), heavyweight Jordan Woodward (5-10, 4), Tristian Wadsworth (7-4, 5) and 220-pound Levi Carter, and you can see why coach Tim McCarthy is looking forward to this year.
McCarthy is also greeting a couple of newcomers, at least to the high school team. Freshman Brady O'Keefe (138-145 pounds) placed second at a prestigious USA Wrestling event in the summer in Fargo, North Dakota. Also coming out this year is Nolan Shine, who wrestled for McCarthy on the Bulldogs several years ago.
"I think we're going to have a pretty good tournament team," said McCarthy, who has compiled a 175-53 dual-meet record at CHS. "Five of those kids (that reached state) - except for maybe the Tournament of Champions - can place at every other meet. Also, since we don't have any gaps this year we should be a good dual-meet team.
"Potentially this is as good or better than we've had going back a ways. We have a pretty good crop of kids. We have 50 kids right now. Our numbers are up."
Within the region, McCarthy expects to battle with Spanish Springs, Reed and McQueen.
"Hopefully we're at their level," McCarthy said. "We wrestled them in the summer and they smoked us. We weren't crisp. It didn't mean a lot, but it meant something."
McCarthy said that the wrestlers who reached state last year are good bets to go again this year, and that group could be joined by three or four others.
Cole McCarthy is the only returning regional winner. He won tournaments at Oakdale, Granada and Fernley. Sharp won at Granada and Fernley, and was an impressive eighth in the Sierra Nevada Classic. Luhrs had a second at Fernley and third at Granada, while Lani was third at both Oakdale and Fernley.
McCarthy said that Shine may have had a lot of peer pressure which is why he switched from basketball to wrestling this year.
"A lot of his friends are on the wrestling team," McCarthy said. "He did the summer with us, and even though he got beat up a little, I think he thought it was fun. It's not like riding a bike. He's been away from the sport for four years."
Translation. Expect Shine to get better as the season goes on and hopefully be peaking around regional time. McCarthy has eight kids right around the 138-pound division, which could make for some interesting practices. He was quick to point out that nobody has won any spot... yet.
Caden Lehman is the only 106-pounder on the team, which means he'll see plenty of action. Anthony Estrada and Dominic Kinder will battle for the 126-pound job.
Cody Cunningham, who posted a 7-5 record with five pins will miss the season with an injury suffered last wrestling season.