Evansville/Albany is king of the hill in Rock Valley Conference wrestling.
The Blue Devils have won three straight conference titles and are the preseason favorite to make it four straight.
Head coach Rob Kostroun knows his team will have its hands full with a talented collection of teams throughout the conference.
“It should be a competitive Rock Valley season with Edgerton, Jefferson, Turner, Whitewater and Evansville/Albany returning the bulk of their line-up from last year’s conference tournament,” Kostroun said. “And East Troy and Jefferson are well-coached and return several battle-tested starters and could challenge any team in the conference.
“Early indications are that we’re seeing an overall increase in participation numbers across the conference. Not only does that create more opportunities for our athletes to compete, but I think it speaks to the quality of programs in our conference.”
Led by Cole Bavery, Edgerton returns 12 seniors, including 10 that wrestled varsity last season.
Bavery finished fourth at the WIAA Division 2 state meet last season and is a three-time state place-winner.
Senior Trevor Wilkinson was also a state qualifier a year ago for the Crimson Tide, while Reed Farrington and Ryen Hazzard came up just short in their state bids.
“As far as the teams to beat in the RVC, it looks like again we should be right in the mix with Evansville and Whitewater,” Edgerton coach Nick Hanson said. “With us filling the lineup, we really think we can compete with the conference uppers.
“Last year we finished second in literally every tournament we wrestled in, and I know by some standards that’s considered a great season, but frankly, we’re tired of it and these kids are working hard in hopes of taking over some of those top spots this season.”
Stoughton is the two-time defending Division 1 state champion and the consensus preseason No. 1 team again this season.
The Vikings, led by nationally-ranked Nicolar Rivera, are loaded up and down the lineup.
Milton coach Pat Jauch, whose team finished sixth at the conference tournament last year, likes the makeup of his team.
“Stoughton is still the cream of the crop in the conference, and the state for that matter,” Jauch said. “I look forward to working hard to close the gap with them.
“We’ve had back-to-back 9-3 season and people keep asking me about us being really down the last two seasons. The last two seasons haven’t been our best seasons, but we’re still a pretty tough team. We’re working on getting back to being one of the best teams in the state.”
Riley Nilo is the top returnee for Milton. The sophomore was sixth at state last year at 106 pounds.
His brother Royce, a freshman, joins the program after winning several national tournaments in middle school.
Other wrestlers to keep an eye on are senior Jordan Stivarius, sophomores Hunter Kieliszewski and Kade Desormeau, freshman Max Haldiman and juniors Trey Smith, Andrew Hoard and Justin Sanchez.
Burlington is the two-time defending champion in the Lakes.
The Demons edged Waterford for the team title a year ago.
Elkhorn finished fourth at the conference tournament a year ago and advanced four wrestlers to the Division 1 state meet.
Head coach Ken Reynolds, now in his 21st season at the helm, has nine varsity wrestlers returning.
“I think we have great potential to have a very successful season,” Reynolds said. “”We have four or five wrestlers that could be competing this season at the WIAA state tournament if everything goes well for them.
“We are young, and the building of this team looks very bright for this group.”
Seniors Aaron Taylor and Colman Karl were both state qualifiers for the Elks last season. Sophomore Joe Showalter earned all-America status this past summer in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Dodgeland won the conference tournament title last season, but the Trojans will have their hands full in trying to repeat this season.
Johnson Creek, Horicon and Orfordville Parkview all have championship-caliber teams.
“We have a strong core of wrestlers, and if we can stay healthy and fill the weights, we have a great chance to make a run at the conference title,” Parkview coach Joel Steinmann said.
“This year, we have 20 wrestlers out. We’re looking at all the weight classes filled, which is a big step over the past few years. Our numbers have been increasing due to the great commitment from the coaches and parents throughout the three levels (youth, middle school, high school).”
Heading the list of returnees for the Vikings is Korben Brown. The junior was a Division 3 state qualifier a year ago.
Also returning are sophomore Camron Duncan, along with juniors Luke Schwengels and Gage Everson.