Aurora -- Veteran Greenmen wrestling coach Dick Bliss, who is starting his 41st season, opens the 2012-13 season with a familiar problem.
Bliss estimates he'll have 35 to 40 wrestlers on the squad once everybody gets into the room.
The problem was nearly half his team was still playing football as of Nov. 23. Not only that, but two of Bliss' starters got a late start practicing because of the boys soccer team advancing to the Division I state tournament.
Bliss, however, is not complaining.
"I'm wearing a skirt and pom-pons and I'm cheering for them all the way," Bliss said about the football team prior to the Division II state semifinal game against Toledo Central Catholic. "We just cheer for them."
Aurora's lineup might not come into focus until January.
When the football players were still out, Bliss said he had about 18 freshmen on hand AHS has only two seniors on the roster - D.J. Lieberth and Justin Frankmann.
Despite that youth and a late start for much of his team, Bliss expects the Greenmen to be competitive when it counts.
"Every event is practice until we get to February -- we'd better get serious about things then," said Bliss. "I've been at it long enough to know that's when things really matter."
Aurora returns one state qualifier in junior George Bollas, who is expected to lead the charge again -- once he puts away his shoulder pads. Bliss is adamant that Bollas and his teammates are in for big things.
"We sent George down [to states] alone last year," Bliss said. "We're not sending him down alone this year- he's going to have roommates plural."
AHS will have plenty of intrasquad competition at the lighter weights.
Sophomores Josh Whitelow and Brandon Overholt will be in the mix to fill the slots at 106 and 113 pounds, along with freshmen Hunter Jones, Kevin Kidwell and Danny Novak.
JUNIOR DISTRICT qualifier Andrew Peterson, who was 31-12 last year at 106, will move up to either 120 or 126.
Lieberth also qualified for districts last year and is the defending CVC champion at 126. Bliss expects him to wrestle back around 126.
Depth will come from freshman Carter Driscoll and juniors Sam McCoy and Sal Petrash.
Frankmann is expected to start at either 132 or 138, though Bliss notes he is still recovering from a concussion suffered during soccer season.
Freshman Kevin Hutchison could see time at either weight class.
Aurora is a bit thin in the middleweight classes. But Bliss expects Kevin Boysza to step up likely at 145. Also, junior Brian Evans is likely to start at either 145 or 152.
Freshman Thaddeus Garret is in the mix at 145 or 152, while sophomore Dylan Perez, A.J. Suchovsky and Mitch Lackey all are fighting for mat time.
After what Bliss called a solid freshman year, sophomore Angus Nietert is likely to get the starting nod at 170 pounds.
Bollas will return after going 36-6 last year, winning the CVC title at 170 and going 1-2 at the state tourney. Bliss expects Bollas to settle at 182 and more big things from him.
"He's a good athlete and has a terrific competitive heart," Bliss said. "He's a prime time player."
Sophomore Brian McNamara reached districts last season at 182. Bliss looks for even more out of McNamara, but is unsure if he will wrestle at 195 or 220.
After an injury-riddled season, junior Chad Jubell also is the mix at 195 or 220. Bliss notes that junior Mickey Carrasco didn't have a great year at 195, but looks for a huge winter from him at 220.
At heavyweight, Bliss said freshman Josh Berger is going to get the nod. He comes in at about 245 pounds and brings a lot of athleticism to the position.
Source of optimism: "I think our lightweights will be very good," Bliss said. "Our heavyweights should be very, very good."
Cause for concern: "When they put in the new weight classes a couple of years ago, everyone was saying they didn't have enough lightweights or didn't have enough heavyweights. Middleweights are the ones I can't get enough of."
CVC prediction: "Perry's got a whole lot of kids back from last year's team," Bliss said. "I think they graduated two state qualifiers, but I think they had six down there. We're going to be very pressed to knock them off. We know Kenston is always going to be competitive."
Assisting Bliss with the team this year are Mark Bugara, Dave Keckan, John Duplay, Tim Banc and Tim Courtad.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4190