Joey Graham is one of several key returners to the Wilmot wrestling team (File Photo/The Report).

By Jason Arndt

After Wilmot Union High School’s wrestling team showed steady progress a year ago, Panthers coach John Watson can only hope for another season of improvement.

Considering the Panthers lost just two seniors, including WIAA Division 1 regional title winner Jake Wagemann at 120 pounds, Watson’s hope could become a reality entering the 2017-18 campaign.

“The team was improved last year from the year before,” said Watson, whose team jumped from sixth in 2015-16 to fifth in last season’s final Southern Lakes Conference standings. “We improved our place in conference and we were third place in regionals.”

“I think we can be an improved team again this year,” he added.

Along with two returning senior sectional qualifiers, Hunter Valach (160) and Joey Graham (120) – the Panthers bring back two other qualifiers – junior Drew Hebior (126) and sophomore Logan Pye (170).

“My Most Valuable Player, Hunter Valach, he will be a 160 mostly this year,” Watson said about his wrestler who finished 24-9 as a junior. “He is a good athlete and had a nice record last year.”

For Graham, who qualified at 106 pounds last year where he finished 24-9, Watson believes the senior returner can continue to show improvement at 126 pounds if he stays healthy in 2017-18.

“I thought he had a good chance to go to state last year, we got him to sectionals, and he dislocated his knee in the first match, but he is a terrific wrestler,” Watson said.

While Hebior and Pye could bolster the Panthers’ improvement efforts as youthful, but experienced wrestlers, Watson also noted Kyler Moudy as another key contributor.

Like Graham and Valach, Kyler Moudy adds another senior voice the squad, Watson said.

“Kyler Moudy is a very experience senior for me at 152,” Watson said.

Kolby Moudy, meanwhile, is also back for another season as a sophomore competing at 106.

Other returners to the team include Jeremy Toro (160) and Mackenzie Stiller (145) and Andrew Tucknott (285), with each adding another element of experience, and gives Watson reason for optimism.

“We got most of our lineup back, we only lost two seniors,” said Watson.

At the start of the season, the Panthers opened with a 41-34 defeat of Union Grove on Nov. 30, when the Panthers saw contributions from other wrestlers.

Jed Defillipo (120), Graham, Gabe Handorf (132), Mason Diedrich (138), Kyler Moudy, Toro, Valach and Benson DuChemin (113) captured wins in the Nov. 30 decision.

As the Panthers continue their conference slate, Watson knows matchup will not come easy, including clashes with Burlington and Elkhorn.

“This is a tough wrestling conference and we always wrestle better outside of conference,” he said. “(Elkhorn) is always the team to keep an eye on, and I think Burlington might have their number (this year).”

Correction: In the original story, Andrew Tucknott was referred to as Jason Tucknott, which was incorrect. The Report apologizes for the error.


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