Cedar Rapids Prairie - The Hawks return a lot from last season’s 28-8 team that placed fifth at the individual state meet and reached the state duals. Prairie was 12-1 in the Mississippi Valley Conference and will be among league leaders again. More than 10 starters return, including a strong middle-to-upper weight lineup. Seven wrestlers return with state experience, including two-time state medalist Andrew Netolicky and returning placewinners Josh Wenger, Trey Blaha and Cam Rathje. Austin Gould, Casey Becker and Jayden Flege provide punch to the Hawks, who will be balanced despite a lack of depth in lower weights.
Iowa City West - The Trojans have some long streaks at stake. West has won nine straight MVC crowns and 10 consecutive state dual team appearances. The Trojans will be strong again, but will they be able to keep up the success of the last decade, including a 31-3 dual mark, 13-0 in the MVC, and third-place finishes at both 2012 state tournaments. West is led by two-time state medalist and 2011 state finalist Kegan Wakefield, state medalist heavyweight Colin Foerstner and two-time state qualifier Mickey Pelfrey. Chris Walters, a state runner-up for Prairie last season, will make a big contribution. The key will be how the rest of the lineup progresses and fills out during the season.
Linn-Mar – Coach Doug Streicher guided the Lions to its second-best state finish, placing fourth in the Class 3A team standings, which was one spot back of Linn-Mar’s 2002 team. The Lions are loaded with experience, including five medalists, six starters and 12 varsity letterwinners. The group boasts a tough nucleus of state champion Matt Wempen, state runner-up and two-time placewinner Ross Lembeck, two-time state medalists Alijah Jeffery and Joel Northrup, and Damon Griffith, who placed eighth last season. The heavier weights need to be solidified, but the power lower weights can carry the team, especially in tournaments where they will likely amass plenty of points. They should have a formidable dual team, which posted a 30-7 mark last season.
West Delaware - Could be the best team in the area, regardless of class. The Hawks finished second in state duals last season and third in the traditional tournament, posting a 23-5 dual record including a 7-0 mark in the Wamac. They are loaded with talent, including state champion Adam Reth, who was 47-0 at 220 last year. Zach Less is a two-time state medalist and a runner-up in 2011, and Zach Muller is a two-time state placewinner. The Hawks have seven state medalists in the lineup, which is hard to match let alone beat. West Delaware’s tough schedule, facing many top 3A programs as well as the competitive 2A teams in northeast Iowa, will prepare it for the postseason as it contends for a state crown.
Alburnett - The news heights are familiar territory now, and the Pirates look to continue their good fortune. They have placed third in the Class 1A state team standings the last three years, earning top-10 finishes the last four. Kane Thompson expects another solid team this season. Hunter Washburn, the 2012 106-pound state champion, leads the way. Grant Henderson, Colton Martin and Dylan Windfield return with state hardware. Zach Fowler and Zach Hoyle strengthen the lineup that will receive a boost from talented freshmen. If they can spread out the talent and avoid leaving state meet points on the JV squad, Alburnett should be in the hunt for another trophy.
Maquoketa Valley - Last season was Maquoketa Valley’s best ever. The Wildcats were 26-9, placing 15th in the Class 1A state meet. They return four wrestlers with state experience, including two-time state medalist Carter Funke and sophomore Ryan Parmely, who didn’t lose a match until the state tournament, where he placed fourth at 195 pounds. Jared Coyle and Luke Kramer reached Des Moines last year, while heavyweight Tyler Yonkovic is the defending Tri-Rivers Conference and sectional champion. Maquoketa Valley also has a strong class of freshmen, boosting its roster numbers, which is always a plus for a small-school program.