By BRETT MARSHALL
Southwest Kansas area high school wrestling programs are usually full of outstanding individuals state-ranked, state champions, and on occasion a school has enough depth to compete for a team championship, such as Scott City in recent years.
But as the 2013-14 season is getting under way this week, only Scott City is preseason ranked by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.
The Beavers, who won the 2012 title, will look to senior Warren Kropp for its leadership this season. The Beavers were ranked No. 9 in Class 4A in the preseason polls by the KWCA.
Kropp, one of The Telegram's Top 11 All-Area selections in 2013, is preseason ranked No. 3 at 170 pounds, but with the Beavers moving up to Class 4A this year, it will be a new challenge for coach Jon Lippelman and his grapplers.
Ulysses has a pair of ranked wrestlers — Diego Maravilla, No. 4 at 195 pounds while Otto Orosco, at 220-pounds, is ranked No. 2.
Tigers' sixth-year coach Joe Gonzales is looking forward to the start of the campaign.
"We have a good nucleus to build around, so it will be interesting to see how we progress," Gonzales said in his preseason information.
In addition to Orosco, who was fifth at state last year, and Maravilla (also a state qualifier), Gonzales returns state qualifiers Luis Mendoza at 126 pounds and Bryce Rodriguez at 145 pounds. His remaining returning starters include Zach Miller at 113 pounds, Mario Rodriguez at 120 pounds and Juan Anguiano at 160 pounds.
Graduated from last year's group were JoAngel Cortez, Charles Garnett, Daulton Farris, Armando Sandoval and Steven Degollado.
Hugoton, perennially a strong Class 4A program as well, has a rebuilding year ahead, according to coach Brent Mahan.
Gone from the Eagles are Patrick Weaver, a four-time state qualifier and runner-up in 2013, as well as two-time state medalist Lawson Fiss.
"This will be a bit of a rebuilding year for us," Mahan said. "(Bradley) Campbell is the only returning state qualifier."
Campbell, who had an 18-9 record a year ago, heads into his senior season as the preseason ranked No. 3 in Class 4A at 195 pounds.
Other varsity spots are expected to be manned by Israel Montoya or Reed Rome (106), Danny Tapia (113), Genesis Martinez or Zane Littell (126), Edgar Villa or Hunter Kerbow (132), David Tapia (138), Noel Camacho (170), Kole Kahl (182), Austin Harper (220) and Nick Evans (285).
Mahan does get Littell back this year after the senior missed his junior season with an injury following a 27-10 campaign his sophomore year. Martinez and Montoya were one match away from qualifying for state. Mahan also is figuring that incoming freshman Pedro Ordonez, a five-time kids wrestling state qualifier, will figure into the lineup.
Nathan Smith heads into his second year at Lakin with an increase in numbers who are out for the program.
Among the Broncs' returning starters are Aiden Baxley and Michelle Roman at 113 pounds, Michael Baxley at 160 pounds, Justin Tate and Kylee Baca at 170 pounds and Jared Burrows at 182 pounds.
"I'm looking forward to this group of young wrestlers as we should have good numbers out again," said Smith. "With leadership from the upperclassmen, I look for us to have a successful season. We don't have a lot of experienced wrestlers, but it is a group of kids that knows how to work hard."
At Cimarron, coach Lance Walker returns two state qualifiers in junior AJ Cooper and senior Zach Crick. Cooper, who was 19-8 a year ago, will compete at either 182 or 195 pounds while Crick, 24-13 last season, will wrestle at 285 pounds. One of the other top returners for the Bluejays is senior Cody Toothaker, who was 24-12 last season, and will either be at 152 or 160 pounds. Cooper enters the season preseason ranked No. 4 at 182 pounds.
"We graduated several of our leaders from last year, but we do have a few returners with state experience and several that were real close to qualifying," Walker said. "It should be a fun year."
The Bluejays were third at the always-tough Class 3-2-1A regional and finished 37th at state. Other returning starters include Garret Lacy at 130 pounds (11-7), Colten Acton at either 138 or 145 pounds, Thomas George at either 145 or 152 pounds and Omar Garcia at 170 pounds. Among the top newcomers for Walker are freshmen Alec Smith, Alex Villaneueva and Jeremy Peterson.
Sublette coach Matt Fox, now in his third year with the Larks, returns two state qualifiers in Wyatt Brown (113) and Andy Davis (120). Another state qualifier, Laramie Lumley, was lost to graduation.
Brown finished with a 17-12 record at 126 pounds while Davis compiled a 17-13 mark at 120 pounds. Among the top newcomers for Fox are freshman Braden Menzie (106) and junior Sam Massey (285).
"As a team, we are young and inexperienced," Fox said. "But the group of kids that I have are good kids, and we will get better as the season progresses."
Fox said he anticipated about 15 wrestlers competing for the Larks this year, with only one of those being a senior.
At Leoti, Brent Porter returns a pair of preseason ranked wrestlers in Class 3-2-1A in 113-pounder Dylon Nighswonger at No. 6 and 182-pounder Brice Mason, who is No. 3 at 182 pounds.
The Class 3-2-1A state tournament will be contested Feb. 28 to March 1 at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays. The Class 3-2-1A regional for area teams will be held Feb. 21 and 22 at Trego Community High School in WaKeeney.