First-year co-head coaches Ray Paul and Miah Casey will have plenty to work with this season leading the Menomonie wrestling team as the Mustang grapplers return plenty of talent with 12 letterwinners back.
Among those returners are five sectional qualifiers from a season ago with Sam Thompson, Jake Boyette, Sam Skillings, Jaylen Wright and Chris Haviland.
Skillings, Boyette and Thompsons are captains on this year’s team. Skillings advanced to state as a freshman in 2016-17 and is ranked nationally.
To go with those veterans, the Mustangs bring in a talented crop of freshmen that could have an impact with this year’s team. Nick Haviland (120 pounds), Blane Keyes (126) and Caleb Macke (152) will all be the in the mix for varsity action to help lengthen the Mustangs lineup.
“Overall we have good numbers with our incoming freshman class and even better kids,” Paul said. “They have done everything right to begin our season and we are excited to see them compete this year.
The path towards a title in the Big Rivers Conference normally goes through Hudson as year-in-and-year-out the Raiders are a dominant team in the league. Hudson had some turnover from a seasgo ago but is expected again to be a favorite for the crown.
“We are returning a numbers of varsity starters from last season, I believe the experience will help us compete in the BRC,” Paul said.
Menomonie opened the season on Thursday with a 51-28 dual victory over Eau Claire Memorial. Skillings (195 pounds), Thompson (220), Andrew Fenton (285), Zach Evenson (113), Cole Larson (138) and Hunter Deutsch (160) each won their matches with pins. Nick Haviland (120) picked up a 5-2 decision win and the Mustangs also had a pair of forfeit wins over the Old Abes.
The Mustangs continue Big Rivers Conference competition on Thursday at Chippewa Falls. The Mustangs have home events against River Falls (Dec. 13), Hudson (Jan. 10) as well as an invite on Jan. 25.