Carson wrestling coach Tim McCarthy freely admits that he has a different mindset heading into this weekend's Northern Division I tournament at Reno High School than he did at this time last year.
The answer is obvious.
A year ago, Carson was able to field essentially a full team and went on to beat Spanish Springs for the regional championship in the cozy confines of Morse Burley Gym.
This year, the Senators won't have a wrestler at 220 or heavyweight and possibly at 195 as senior Javier Torres has been suffering from a nagging shoulder injury and has yet to be cleared by his physician. So, when you can't score any points in two and maybe three weight classes, winning a tournament becomes very tough.
"I would think for anybody to overtake Spanish Springs, they would have to catch a lot of breaks," McCarthy said. "I guess we'd have an outside shot. I would think Damonte would be the No. 2 seed then Carson and McQueen.
"The great thing about wrestling is that it's both a team and individual sport. If we're not fortunate to win the team title again, we have the ability to move people to the state meet."
McCarthy feels he has eight strong candidates to reach state - Sammy Mercado (113), Kyle Sharp (120), Cole McCarthy (132), Nicholas Lani (138), Brady O'Keefe (145), Colby Brown (160), Jordan Luhrs (170) and Brady Rivera (182).
The veteran Carson coach said that he hopes his young and talented squad can perform well in these next two weeks and wipe out what has been an up and down season.
The Senators did win their fifth straight Sierra League title and stretched their league winning streak to 25 in the process. However, it's the nonleague results that have McCarthy perplexed.
"It's been a rocky season," he said. "Coming away from the TOC and Sierra Nevada Classic without anybody placing that was a bit disappointing, and then getting pounded by Spanish Springs was very disappointing. We've also had some commitment issues.
"Hopefully we'll do well this week at regionals and get some kids to state, and some of that (disappointment) will be forgotten."
The top three individuals in each weight class advance to the state meet.
Here's a weight-by-weight look at this week's tournament:
106: Reed's Chase Heit and Damonte's Mike Solferino are the top seeds from the two leagues. Carson's Caden Lehman is seeded sixth, but is a longshot to medal.
"Caden has steadily improved over the year," McCarthy said. "It will be tough for him to make state. I'm really pleased that he's improved so much. Hopefully he can win a couple of matches."
113: Ryan Long of Spanish Springs and Carson's Sammy Mercado are the top seeds. Both went 5-0 in league, though Long is dropping down to wrestle in this class. Mercado was a regional finalist last year and reached state.
"If Sammy wrestles as well as he's capable of doing, he can win the regional," McCarthy said. "Sammy has been a bit too defensive. He doesn't trust his offense as much as he should. We've been working with him on that."
120: McQueen's Mike Paulk and Carson's Kyle Sharp are the top seeds. Sharp was second a year ago in the regionals and finished fourth at state.
"I think he's the favorite, but you saw what happened against Spanish Springs (was pinned when he was ahead)" McCarthy said. "I would definitely put my money on Kyle."
126: McQueen's James DeLeon and Galena's Nick Oliver are the top seeds. Carson is entering two at this weight - Dominic Kinder and Anthony Estrada. Neither Kinder or Estrada have a shot to place, but could get a win or two in the consolation bracket.
"Dominic could be a darkhorse," McCarthy said. "He is as strong as anyone at that weight. He just doesn't have the wrestling background, but he's open to suggestions (from the coaches)."
132: Mickey Castonguay of North Valley and Carson's Cole McCarthy are the top seeds. McCarthy is looking for his third straight trip to state. He was first in regionals last year and he's been fourth at state the past two years.
"I'd have to put him in as the favorite to win it," coach McCarthy said. "He'll see the Spanish Springs kid (Rito Hernandez) in the semis. Cole beat him 3-1 in Fernley. He wants to have his name up there (as a state champ). He doesn't have to wear the mask to protect his nose, so he has his peripheral vision back."
138: Taylor Hagar of North Valleys and Carson's Lani are the top seeds, but this weight is extremely stacked. Manogue's Willy McDonald is dropping from 145s and Reed's Jake Otuafi is solid. Carson's Tristian Wadsworth also is in the field.
"Out of the 14 weight groups this is the spiciest," McCarthy said. "There are a lot of quality wrestlers in this group. Last year was a disappointment for Nicholas. He was up (in the state qualifying match) and gave up a reversal with two seconds to go and missed going to state. Tristian has a ton of experience. We'll see if he's ready to bang with these guys."
145: Reno's Joey Lavallee and Carson's Brady O'Keefe are the top seeds, and Lavallee is the overwhelming favorite. Carson's Alex Cunningham is also in the field as a nonscoring participant, and he's capable of winning a match.
"Brady got a good draw," McCarthy said. "He won't have to see Lavallee until the finals."
152: Reno's Terry Mason and Damonte's Matt Barrett are the top seeds. Skylar Schilling of Carson is in the lineup in place of the injured Nolan Shine.
"It was tough when Nolan went down," McCarthy said. "Skylar is a junior, so it's not like we're throwing some freshman out there. He's done a great job filling in."
160: McQueen's Shawn Ramos and Damonte's Drew Smith are the top seeds. Colby Brown of Carson is expected to challenge for the last state berth.
"Colby should be a state qualifier," McCarthy said. "He has all the tools. He needs to make sure he wrestles an entire six minutes."
171: Jake Drescher of Spanish Springs and Carson's Luhrs are the top seeds. Luhrs beat Drescher last week in a dual meet. Damonte's Connor Raglen also will be in the mix.
"Jordan will be our biggest favorite to win a title," McCarthy said.
182: Tyler Beaulac of Spanish Springs and Zack Ewert of Damonte are the top seeds, and Brady Rivera of Carson figures to place in the top four.
"It's a tough weight," McCarthy said. "There are four guys going for three spots. He's lost to Ewert and Beaulac (2-0), but he's right there."
195: Brik Chesley of Spanish Springs and Rory Anderson of Damonte are the top seeds. It wasn't known at press time whether Carson's Torres would participate.
220: Reed's Spencer Empey and Wooster's Omar Torres are the top seeds. Empey is in a class by himself.
Heavyweight: Chase Hauder of Spanish Springs and Damonte's Mike Madole are the top seeds. This is a small group with just six participants.