Some of Oregon’s wrestlers are known commodities, while others are brand-new to the sport and eager to make an impact.
The Panthers return four letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished seventh in the Badger South Conference and did not qualify an individual for the Division 1 state tournament.
One of the known commodities, senior Nate Hall, is hoping for a bounce-back season at either 195 pounds or 220 pounds. He was a sectional qualifier as a sophomore, but had his junior year wiped out by injury.
Michael Schleim qualified for sectionals at 138 last season, and coach Ned Lease said the sophomore is “primed to make an impact.”
“Nate Hall and Michael Schleim both have their sights set on the Kohl Center,” Lease said. “Others do as well, but we’ll wait and see.”
Fellow sophomores John Ruth and Cooper King are expected to anchor the Panthers in the middle weights. Ruth qualified for sectionals at 152 last season and “has grown a lot in the offseason,” according to Lease. The ninth-year coach said King was “fearless as a freshman” at 160.
All of Oregon’s freshmen are new to wrestling. The Panthers will also have four girls competing this season.
Oregon begins its season with a Badger South Conference dual at home against Fort Atkinson on Friday at 7 p.m. The Panthers will compete in four tournaments and two Badger South duals before a Jan. 14 matchup against Stoughton, which has won two straight Division 1 team state championships.
“Every opponent gets our best match,” said Lease, a 2001 graduate of perennial small-school power Fennimore. “But the defending state champs in Division 1 will be the biggest test.”
The Panthers will compete in the Division 1 Sun Prairie Regional and Oconomowoc Sectional with the hope of sending individuals to state.