by Michael Leonard
As head coach Joe Caniglia notes, expectations are always high for the Hudson wrestling team.
This season, however, Caniglia is dealing with something a bit new.
"We have an interesting dynamic in that we have a lot of good young kids," Caniglia said. "The leadership aspect from our upperclassmen is going to take us where we need to go.
"We've got a good amount of freshmen and sophomores who have a good amount of wrestling experience."
Caniglia enters his 18th year in charge of the program with a team high on experience from the Team Kratos youth and middle school programs.
"Our freshmen and sophomores had a combined middle-school record of 56-1," Caniglia said. "There's a maturity aspect that needs to come with high school wrestling, though.
"There's a big difference between wrestling 14-year-old boys and 18-year-old boys."
Last winter, the Explorers finished 12-7 in dual meets, including 3-2 in the Northeast Ohio Conference River Division. Brunswick won the title last season.
While Hudson lost six starters to graduation, including All-Ohioan Danny Tiley, Zach Vehar, Peter Mougey, Nate Gregory, Brandon White and Sam Semenczuk, Caniglia said his team has a lot of talent returning.
"We have five district qualifiers back," Caniglia said. "I've think we've got 12 guys back with varsity experience. There's a lot of wins that went out the door with those guys that graduated. I'm optimistic that we can fill their shoes, though."
Caniglia's assistant coaches remain unchanged from last year as Mark Osgood, Ryan Buckner, Mark McClain and Joe Delsanter are back.
The Explorers have 40 wrestlers in the room this year.
At 106 pounds, Caniglia expects a season-long competition between freshman Nicci Polifrone and sophomore Michael Wilcox.
The same situation will take place at 113 pounds as juniors Christian Owsley and Erik Johnson -- each of whom has some varsity experience -- will battle it out.
Caniglia has high hopes for freshman 120-pounder Kyle Minor, who qualified for the junior high state meet last season.
"He has been doing a lot of good things in the room," Caniglia said.
Sophomore Ben Boysel has grown into the 126-pound weight class after qualifying for districts at 113 last season as a freshman. Caniglia said he's looking for Boysel to increase his win total from 19.
Freshman Mitchell Soucek will serve as backup at 126.
Caniglia said a corps that includes sophomores Chris Motter and Collin Hall and freshman Nathan Szoch will fill the spots at 132 and 138 pounds, respectively.
Motter was Hudson's top freshman last year with 24 wins, while Szoch placed last year at the junior high state meet.
After reaching districts at 120 last season, junior Billy Buehl has grown all the way to 145 pounds this season. Buehl went 26-15 as a sophomore.
"He's opening up a little bit more," Caniglia said. "You can see his confidence starting to grow."
Senior district qualifier Braden Wright will be the eventual starter at 152 pounds, but Caniglia said he will miss the first three weeks of the season due to injury.
In Wright's absence, sophomore Simon Turner and freshman Joe Hawthorn will battle to start.
Senior 160-pounder Michael Coleman is the Explorers' top returning wrestler.
After going 44-7 last season and finishing fourth at 160 pounds at the 2013 Division I state meet, hopes are high that Coleman can become the first Hudson wrestler ever to win a state title.
"Last year was a tremendous boost for him," Caniglia said. "A lot of guys get to that level and get satisfied and start to tail off. Michael has continued to improve. He has wrestled a lot in the off-season. I can say that he is much stronger this year."
Sophomore Joe Russ will back up Coleman at 160.
A trio of sophomores, Sandor Chunyo, Zach Lewis and Derek Hess, are battling for the starting spot at 170 pounds.
Things are more settled at 182 pounds as junior district qualifier Ben Krizman is back after a 20-win season.
"He's built like a brick house," Caniglia said. "He's a workhorse for us."
Sophomore Eric Terry will provide depth at 182.
Caniglia has another battle to start at 195 pounds as senior Michael Innamorato and juniors Michael Delsanter and Gabe Vehar all are in the mix.
Sophomore Matt Slater took his lumps at 220 as a freshman, but he also won 17 matches and reached the district meet. Caniglia expects only good things in the future from Slater.
"He's another one that's gotten much stronger this year," Caniglia said.
Sophomores Shane Brown and Conner Milosevic will provide depth.
Hudson has a long tradition of solid heavyweights, usually drawn off the football team.
That tradition continues as junior Dylan Carlson will get the nod at heavyweight. The offensive lineman will wrestle at about 240 pounds.
"He's got good body position and good awareness and he's smart," Caniglia said. "We talk about being able to win matches just by being intelligent. He's got the ability to do some good things for us."
Sophomore Danny Baka will provide depth at heavyweight.
The NOC River Division remains unchanged this season with Hudson, Brunswick, Medina, Stow-Munroe Falls, Cuyahoga Falls and North Royalton competing.
Caniglia said Brunswick is "well ahead of the pack" at this time.
Hudson is scheduled to open the season Dec. 7 at the Briggs Dual Meet Tournament at Copley. The Explorers are set to compete against Brunswick, Maple Heights, Carrollton, Copley and Norwalk. First match is set for 9:30 a.m.