Van Wert’s Terrin Contreras (right) takes on an opponent at the OHSAA State Wrestling Championships last season. Contreras returns to the Cougar lineup this season. (TB file photo)
Van Wert’s Terrin Contreras (right) takes on an opponent at the OHSAA State Wrestling Championships last season. Contreras returns to the Cougar lineup this season. (TB file photo)
By JIM COX

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - The Van Wert wrestling team returns eight lettermen from last winter, but still faces some big challenges if it is to improve the record of the 2011-12 team (10-9 overall, 3-6 in the Western Buckeye League, 6th in the
WBL tournament, 8th in the WBL combined season and tournament).

A big plus is the return of four seniors, led by state qualifier at 285, Terrin Contreras. Contreras was 32-9 last year, while winning a WBL championship, finishing second in sectionals, and third at districts. The other three returning seniors are Colten Royer (32-13, 4th in the WBL at 152), Jordan Daniels (18-14, WBL runnerup at 160), and Daniel Thompson (25-18, who wrestled at 145 last year). Royer, Daniels, and Thompson are likely to move up in weight class this season.

Also back are junior Zach Thomas (10-13, a district qualifier at 220 last year), junior Gabe Hill (15-24, a sectional placer at 170), sophomore Chandler Adams (6-27 at 132), and sophomore Quinton Rutkowski (1-6).

Three promising freshman -- Andy Hammond (126), Jacob Crisenbery (132), and Ryan Stoller (145) -- will certainly be competing for slots in the starting lineup.

With only 15 wrestlers on the roster, filling 14 weight classes will be a problem. "Our biggest question mark is our numbers," said head coach Ben Collins. "We will be forfeiting at least three weight classes. This puts us in an 18-point hole at the beginning of every dual meet. Another question mark is how our freshmen respond to being in the varsity lineup."

Collins is taking a realistic approach to the season, but he sees at least one very strong point in this team. "One of our strengths, on paper, would be the number of returning lettermen that we have," said Collins. "However, when looked at closely they have not been too successful in the past. We need to continue working hard to achieve our capabilities. This leads into our true strength so far this season which has been our work ethic. In the first week and a half of practices we've had some of our best practices since I've been back at Van Wert. This can be attributed to our leadership from our upperclassmen."

Collins expects defending WBL champion Wapakoneta to again be in the title hunt, along with Elida, Defiance, and Bath. Historically, Defiance (18 championships) and Wapakoneta (13) have dominated the league. The Cougars are in third place (tied with Shawnee) with four championships -- 1970-71, 2003-04, 2006-07, and 2007-08 (shared with Celina).

"The goals for this season are no different than any other year," added Collins. "We want to be successful at the end of the year -- a high finish in the league and some state qualifiers. To do that we must remain focused, intense, and working toward a peak at the end of the year."

Collins in his first year as the Cougs' head coach. He was the head coach at Paulding for two years before assisting at Van Wert for the next six. He is assisted now by Mark Collins (33 years of coaching experience, 17 as head coach at Lincolnview and 16 as a Van Wert assistant), and Ed Jacob (17 years as an assistant coach).