The wrestlers that now make up Mulvane's upperclassmen will be tested early to see how they adapt to a new role.
In recent seasons, the Wildcats were carried by state qualifiers such as Seth Sharpe, Michael Bird and Seth Gunter. Everyone else was along for the ride, enjoying success as it came, with no pressure attached. But now, those top roles are mostly vacant, and in need takers.
“I think some of them are going to have to work on confidence, because they've had a pretty strong junior and senior class leading them the last couple of years,” said head coach Rick Langerot. “Hopefully that will happen, because it's their time to shine.”
Kolby Fennewald is the given. A two-time state placer, Fennewald has zeroed in on an elusive state title. He brings the No. 3 ranking in 4A into the season at 170 pounds.
“I think that's what his aim is, is to make the state finals,” Langerot said. “He's very dedicated to the sport. He works very hard. He's kind of one of our quiet leaders.
“He just does what needs to be done and does it.”
Fellow senior Levi Carver is a staple in the 113-pound weight class. He qualified for state by placing second at regionals, but a strong bracket kept him from placing. He ended his year with a 30-12 record.
Carver is ranked sixth this year. Langerot said maturity and experience will help improve Carver's stock.
Beyond that pair, there is potential, but whether it can be harnessed into production has not been determined.
Josh Rodriguez is pegged for 138 pounds. His path has been blocked by several other outstanding Mulvane wrestlers in previous years. Blake Cusick will slide into the 120-pound class. Tanner Cusick adds crucial experience to the lineup.
Freshmen Logan Elliott and Conner Penka are part of a competitive class of new bloods, but one that is, of course, untested at the varsity level. Langerot has some concerns of whether the Wildcats can fill every weight division – Mulvane has went years without an open weight.
Langerot is also searching for a vocal leader. Mulvane's deep dash through the football postseason left the practice room without someone taking the role to guide the youngsters.
“It's not been filled yet,” Langerot said. “Kolby will lead by example. I've got Josh Rodriguez and Tanner Cusick, who will step up and lead the team.”
Mulvane placed 16th at state a year ago with 41 points. Andale took the team trophy with 99 points.
“If we get the right people in the right weight classes again, I think we'll be competitive again,” Langerot said.