BY JOEL SENSENIG | MIRROR SPORTS — Despite losing two state qualifiers from last season, the Anthony Wayne wrestling team thinks it’s poised to make some noise in the Northern Lakes League and beyond this winter. The Generals, third in the league last year, lost three-time state qualifier and 2015 champion Caleb Yates and two-time state qualifier Cody Moosman to graduation. AW coach Ryan Donley has a lot of reasons to think this year’s squad can accomplish big things, however, despite a roster (34 wrestlers) that is a bit smaller than it has been. “We’re really excited about this group,” he said. “We have a lot of kids back. We lost a couple in Yates and Moose that were blue-chip kids in our lineup for four years, so they’re tough kids to replace. “But we do have kids behind them that are good wrestlers – they just had trouble cracking the lineup with a former state champ and former state placer. “We need to improve in our upper weights a little bit. We have improved, but we’re spending a lot of time to try to improve those kids,” Donley said, noting the Generals lineup from sophomore Bryce Gilts at 106 to senior Dom Caraccio at 170 is solid. “We’re cautiously optimistic for a good year.” The team is already ahead of where it was last year because of when the football team’s playoff run ended. The football players were able to join the team three weeks earlier than last fall. “Getting our lineup set earlier is going to help us in the early part of the season and help us peak at the right time,” Donley said. “We were a month late last year with football, which was a good problem, but it posed some challenges that we hadn’t ever dealt with.” Senior Nick Schneider (138 pounds, 32-17 last season) made it to state last winter and will be counted on to provide stability for the Generals once again. “We’re very pleased with where Nick’s at,” Donley said, noting Schneider is much healthier this winter than he was in 2016, when he suffered some football injuries. “This year he’s come in, he’s healthy, he’s at a good weight for himself, he’s training at a high level. He looks almost at a midseason level right now. We’re really excited about the potential Nick has this year. We anticipate him making another run at the state tournament.” Schneider said he feels confident about both himself and the team this year. “Being injury-free during football is huge,” he said. “I wasn’t too strong last year, I was tired all the time. It stinks that we’re out of football, but next one’s up and I’m ready to go. I feel good.” Schneider has solid drill partners in seniors Cody Hutt (126, 27-11) and Braydon Auch (a transfer student from Ayersville) and sophomore Zach Snyder (132, 24-9). “We’re really excited about that cluster of kids from 120 to 145,” Donley said. Senior Nick Glowski (15-8) will be stepping in at 120 pounds. Snyder, who showed a lot of promise as a freshman, was forced to wrestle at 138 last season, up a couple weight classes from his ideal weight. “He still had a good showing and won some big matches for us,” Donley said. “Zach’s dead-set on making a state run and by the time he’s out of here, he wants to be a state champ. He’s probably in the best shape on our team. “He’s a training freak. You can’t get the kid tired – he’s got a very high motor. We just need to clean up a few things technically, but he’s somebody I think can be a really good leader for a couple years on our squad.” Hutt is expected to be another leader on the mat for the Generals. “Cody will be back at 126 and to return at the same weight class is a big deal,” Donley said. “He’s strong, he’s been wrestling forever and is just somebody we think can really surprise some people at the state level.” Hutt said he’s very excited to begin competition this winter. “I feel way more confident and our team is looking pretty good,” he said. “We’ve got a solid lineup and personally, I think I’m going to do way better this year. I’m in a better mindset, stronger, faster and way more ready to go.” Hutt hopes his offseason preparation will pay dividends in the regular season and beyond. “I was in the weight room a lot, multiple times a week,” he noted. “I started running a lot more before so I’d be in better condition. I’m not as heavy as I was last year, so I’m cutting less weight, so I’ll be more healthy.” Hutt said he’s set the goals of winning league as an individual and team and making a lengthy tournament run. “I want to go to state this year and I think we can take at least four guys this year,” he said. Senior Cole Ragan (285, 20-18) will anchor the team up top. The Air Force Academy football commit is coming off an award-riddled gridiron campaign and hopes to keep the momentum rolling on the mat. “He’s a really good athlete for a 270-pound kid. I just did his fitness test and he ran a 6:45 mile,” Donley said. “The kid can move, he’s strong, really athletic. We’re just working on some things technically on his game, but he’s really come a long way from last season. We think Cole can hop on the scene in the wrestling world as well. “It’s good to have a senior in the upper weights because we have some younger kids up there and Cole’s going to be the leader for them.” Other wrestlers Donley looks to take a step up in their game are Caraccio (160/170, 14-24) and senior Max Elliott (182). Elliott did not wrestle last season but is a longtime participant of the Generals program. “We’ve got some kids that are good pieces of the puzzle – we just need to sharpen them up a little as we get into competition,” Donley said. The coach expects some of the perennial league powers to again flex their muscles at the top of the standings, but he knows there are some up-and-comers as well. “Perrysburg’s had the clear advantage,” Donley said of the seven-time defending NLL champs. “They graduated a lot, but they’re still going to be a good wrestling team. “Napoleon’s going to be good. They have to replace a couple of kids similar to us, so I think Perrysburg, Napoleon and Anthony Wayne are in the top portion of the league.” Donley expects Northview, Maumee and Springfield to all be trending in an upward direction as well. “I think our league will be deeper than it was a year ago, but I still think you’re going to see Perrysburg, Napoleon and Anthony Wayne near the top.” The team starts its season on Friday, December 1 at Solon High School in an 11-team tournament. “We’re excited to go there for the first time,” Donley said. “It should be a good test for us early on.” While the varsity team is in Solon, some of the reserve wrestlers will be competing at the Jim Derr Northwood Tournament at Northwood High School during opening weekend. Donley will be assisted by Tommy Bridges, Ernie Ruiz and Adam Wagner. Mat stats will be taken by Maggie Burkett, Kylie Cole, Lily Hassan, Kara Keil, Madalyn Rios, Kaylee Schlosser, Zoe Shane, Rachel Stephens and Skye Stram.