When looking at the Carson High wrestling program this year and trying to determine if its a rebuilding season or whether the Senators have been able to reload, maybe it's a case of both.
There's no denying that Carson has lost a lot of talent from last year's Northern 4A championship team, but Senator coach Tyson Thivierge isn't selling his program short.
"I believe we have a lot of talent in this room," said Thivierge during Monday's practice at "The Pound" in the former Nevada Appeal building. "I'm not going to let up. Every time I step in this room I believe we can win state."
But Thivierge is also a realist. He knows that Damonte Ranch looks to be the class of the North this year. "I'll never consider ourselves the favorite," he said.
"Damonte is the team to beat this year. They didn't lose hardly anybody. They're loaded and they've got backup ammunition.
"They're the team to beat this year. Damonte has worked hard to get where they're at. They're definitely the frontrunners."
It looks like that Carson, Douglas, Fallon and Galena again will be among the teams chasing Damonte. The Senators will find out a lot about themselves tonight when they travel to take on Douglas.
Because of the certification rules designed to protect the wrestlers' safety, Thivierge said it's tough to open up with a Sierra League dual against Douglas because he hasn't been able to certify all of his wrestlers at the weights they'll be wrestling, yet.
Thivierge said his team will be able to go with only 12 out of 14 wrestlers today. But he said he'll have wrestlers certified for all 14 classes within a couple of weeks.
"We'll see what could happen," said Thivierge about tonight's dual. "It could be interesting."
And besides, Thivierge said Carson should have plenty of chances to see Douglas throughout the year. Another chance could come on Saturday at the Capital City Duals at Morse Burley Gym.
While Damonte Ranch won't be there, the rest of the Northern 4A's top teams will be wrestling. Carson, Douglas, Fallon, Galena, Reno High, Wooster, North Valleys and Spanish Springs will all be in the event.
Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. The teams will be divided into two pools with the winners of each pool facing off for the title. The event should give an idea of which teams have the best chance to challenge Damonte.
Carson does return two wrestlers who qualified for the NIAA 4A State Championships last year in Todd Banko and Martin Azzam. Banko took third at state in 2006. The Senators also have several other wrestlers returning with experience in the program.
The program has 24 wrestlers who have bought into conditioning at 5:30 a.m. every morning, practicing every afternoon and doing drills such as running up C Hill. "They're the 24 hardest working kids in the school," Thivierge said.
Thivierge said his regime will pay off for those who buy into the program. He noted that four wrestlers from last year - Travis Lamborn, Robbie Bozin, Owen Craugh and Kyle Banko - all went on to the same college, Northwest College in Wyoming, one of the nation's top junior college programs.
He also said that this year's team has a strong sophomore class. "The sophomore class is chomping at the bit and wanting to make an impact," Thivierge said.
There's obviously high hopes for Azzam and Banko this season. "He's on a mission this year," said Thivierge about Azzam. "That kid looks solid."
And Carson continues to have an infusion of wrestlers from its feeder program, the Carson Bulldogs. Among the top Bulldog alumni coming in this year is freshman Patrick Craugh, who will wrestle at 103 pounds.
At 112 will be Nick Schlager, who was in the starting lineup last year, and should be one of Carson's top wrestlers this season.
Against Douglas, Thivierge said he won't have a 119-pounder. Either Schlager or Ricky Urdarti will fill that role.
Banko will be at 125 and because he has such low body fat, that's where he'll stay. At 130 will be Adam Welch or Brandon Bigler. Thivierge said he also won't have anyone at 135 against Douglas.
At 140 is another experienced wrestler in Aaron Jolcover and there's also Nick Poole. Freshman Chris Foss is at 145, Azzam is at 152 and there's also Anthony Torkeo at 152.
Junior Valadarez, who also saw some action on the varsity last year, and Collin Grischott are at 160. Carson received a boost when Justin Steele, one of North Valleys' top wrestlers from last year, transferred to CHS. Steele will be at 171 and freshman Caleb Jeffers is at 171 as well.
Trent Simpson and Albert Reed are at 189 and Garrett Truesdale, who took fourth at zone last year, is at 215. In addition, Max Schadek returns at heavyweight.
Eventually, Jolcover should be at 135 and Foss should be at 140 while Azzam should move down to 145. Either Valadarez or Grischott should move down to 152 and Torkeo is also in the mix at 152 and 160. "We have plenty of depth at 52 and 60," Thivierge said.