Smithsburg hasn’t had a state qualifier since the 2009-10 season.
“Isn’t that something,” Dietrich said. “We had one or more every year since 1978 and then the last two years we haven’t.”
Obviously, the Leopards have a lot of room for improvement.
“We’re hoping to at least get to .500, but I’m an optimist. I want to be better than .500,” Dietrich said. “But we’re going to be down 12 (points) on a regular basis so it’s going to be tough. There are only two or three weight classes where we have more than one kid.”
The Rebels had a breakout year last season under first-year head coach Thomas Ashby.
South went 9-11 in dual meets after combining for only two wins the previous two seasons, and they took third at the county tournament for their best finish in nine years.
“It was a great year last year,” Ashby said. “I couldn’t have been happier.”
It’s going to be difficult, however, for the Rebels to build on that success, at least immediately.
“We only have three guys this year who’ve wrestled 10 varsity matches or more in their career,” Ashby said. “It’s going to be a tough year. We have a young team and a very tough schedule. But the guys are working hard. I think you’ll see a better second half of the season.”
The top returnee is senior Marquil Holt, who went 20-2 last season and was the county champ at 220.
The only other returning county champs are North’s Colbert and Balcita, who won at 120 and 126, and Williamsport’s Loeser, the winner at 106.
“I look for Marquil to have a great year,” Ashby said. “He’s been a great team leader and his work ethic is impeccable. He’s gotten stronger, and he’s gotten faster. Our goal for him is to go to states this year and hopefully place.”
South’s top newcomer is freshman Isaiah Brooks (106).
“He’s looking good,” Ashby said. “He has a great junior league résumé and has wrestled in some of the top junior league tournaments in the country. I look for him to be a region and hopefully state qualifier this year. I’m excited to see what he can do, but he hasn’t wrestled a high school match yet so it’s hard to say.”
The Saints have eight returning starters from last season’s team that went 7-5 in duals, won the Independent-Parochial School League title and finished second in the Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament.
Gone are Brady Burker, an all-county first-team heavyweight, and Michael Knable, who went 15-6 at 120.
“Obviously we lost two big kids from last year as far as results go, but we have a ton of kids coming back who’ve put a lot of time in the weight room and wrestling room,” coach Steve Lachut said. “We have a lot of kids who’ve bought into wrestling.”
Five of Saint James’ returnees had winning records last season — seniors John Stephens, Henry Smith and Leighton Younger and juniors Alec Wingerd and Justin Pank.
Pank, who was the MAC champ at 132 last season, is now at 145, while Younger, who went 18-9 at 182, is now at 195-220.
“We want to win the IPSL again, and we want to win the MAC. Those are stepping stones,” Lachut said. “Our ultimate goal is to get kids through to prep nationals (by placing in the top eight individually at the state independent school tourney).”
Wrestling: Hubs start taking steps to climb to state tournament
Washington County Preps Previews