Aurora -- Entering his 42nd year at the helm, Greenmen wrestling coach Dick Bliss is dealing with one usual and one unusual situation.
The usual situation during Thanksgiving week was that Bliss didn't have his full squad in place. That's become an annual challenge because of the success of the football team in the playoffs.
The unusual situation: For the first time in decades, Aurora did not have a single wrestler reach the state tournament last season.
"Let's just say it was tough," Bliss said. "We don't have too many years like that. Everybody improved like crazy from the beginning of the season to the end, but it wasn't enough. We're not going to allow that to occur anymore."
Bliss said his team may round into shape slowly, but the finished product should be solid.
"I'm really happy with every kid we have in the room," Bliss said. "One big thing we really need to do is get healthy. We've got our football kids back, but we've got to get them in shape. By January, we'll be pretty darn good. In the meantime, it's going to be sort of back and forth."
Aurora also will deal with a new challenge in the postseason: The Greenmen will wrestle in Division I for the first time. While noting it is a step up, Bliss said he's not too concerned with the move.
"There are good kids in every division," Bliss said. "I have no doubt we'll compete."
Bliss noted his lineup is still in flux and there may be some movement among the weight classes.
Freshman Jarrod Brezovec should get the nod at 106 pounds. "He placed in the junior high state tournament," Bliss said. "We expect him to have a good year.
Last season, junior Josh Whitelaw came the closest to reaching the state tourney as he was an alternate at 106 pounds. Whitelaw will wrestle at 113, with sophomore Justin Rosselot also in the mix.
At 120 pounds, sophomore Danny Novak returns after reaching the district as a freshman. "He was a starter towards the end of the year," Bliss said. "He should have pretty nice year."
Bliss said freshman Dominic Stuber also will compete for time once he recovers from a back injury, as well senior Sal Petrash.
Senior district qualifier Andrew Peterson likely will start at 126 pounds after going 32-11 last season. "He's a very talented young man," Bliss said. "We expect him to have a big year." Freshman Matt Crissman also is in the mix at 126.
The race to start at 132 pounds will be fought between sophomores Carter Driscoll, Cole Gavin and Alex Nelson. Driscoll started at time last year, while Gavin returns to Aurora after spending his freshman year at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
Whoever does not earn the 132 spot could wrestle at 138 pounds, while freshmen Connor Bizjak, Jordan Pollard and Josh Loudon also are in the mix.
Senior returning starter Kevin Boysza will get the nod at 145 pounds, while freshman Will Lovell, junior Ryan Kingore and sophomore Aaron Ruiz all are competing for time.
At 152 pounds, freshman Bubba Arslanian might have the inside track. "He's going to be a pretty good one," Bliss said. Sophomore Josh Kane also will see time.
Senior district qualifier Brian Evans will look to take the next step this season after going 33-14 as a junior. Bliss said freshmen J.T. Rose and sophomore Thaddeus Garrett each are natural 160 pounder, but they likely won't wrestle at that spot.
"For a while at least, were going to have to cover 170 with one of those young guys," Bliss said.
Junior Angus Nietert has been a two-year starter for the Greenmen and looks to have the edge to start at 182 pounds.
Junior A.J. Suchovsky was is another two-year letterwinner who finished fourth at the sectional and Chagrin Valley Conference tournament last season at 195 pounds. He will be back at 195 this winter.
Aurora suffered a big blow when junior Brian McNamara suffered a leg fracture in multiple places at the end of the football season. He was expected to start at 220 pounds, but has been lost for the season. In his place, junior returning letterwinner Dean Hayden is expected to get the nod.
At heavyweight, sophomore Josh Burger returns after a very solid freshman year. He finished second at sections to qualify for districts, going 28-12. He will wrestle at about 270 pounds this season. "He's gotten bigger and stronger," Bliss said. "We expect his to do big things."
Sophomore Nick Matt will provide some depth at heavyweight.
Cause for concern: "There's a couple weights in there where we only have one or two kids," Bliss said. "We need to solidify those weight. Depth is a big concern at the first two weights and two of the last four. We can't do a whole lot about it."
Source of optimism: "Enthusiasm. The kids are working very, very hard," Bliss said. "I'm really happy with the that. There's some kids that are setting some high goals for themselves."
CVC outlook: "There's a number of good teams," Bliss said. "On paper, Perry has to be the favorite. They've got four returning state qualifiers, including a defending state champion. "That will be our primary competition. They're the best. If we can beat them, we will win the league."
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