LINN-MAR LIONS - High expectations accompany this season for Linn-Mar. The Lions are ranked 42nd nationally by InterMat after placing fifth at the 2013 state tournament and posting a 27-10 dual record. The Lions have 11 wrestlers back with starting experience and a ton of accomplishments. Former state champion Matt Wempen and three-time state medalist and Preseason Nationals champion lead the way for a lineup that has big point scorers (five state medalists) for tournaments and a balanced roster for duals. Linn-Mar has the potential for one of its best seasons.
CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE HAWKS - The Hawks lose more than half of their starting lineup from a team that went 25-5, won the Mississippi Valley Conference tournament and placed third at the state meet. Prairie still returns four state medalists, including Josh Wenger and Trey Blaha, who both earned their second medal with fourth-place finishes last season. Younger wrestlers will need to fill the voids caused by graduation, but the Hawks have been able to reload. It helps to have talent like sophomore Sam Uthoff and senior Skyler St. John to build around.
CEDAR RAPIDS JEFFERSON J-HAWKS - Jefferson has steadily improved the last couple years and hope to make another jump from an 11-6 mark last season. The J-Hawks were fourth at the MVC meet a year ago and return eight wrestlers that placed in the in the top-six at conference, including Michael Moncivais, who placed sixth at the state tournament, MVC runner-up and state qualifier Kyle Briggs, and P.J. Rashed, who reach state twice. The J-Hawks have developed a strong competitive edge, according to co-head coach Matt Orton. Jefferson has the potential for a balanced lineup.
WEST DELAWARE HAWKS - Last season will be hard to match, let alone surpass, for the Hawks, who won the traditional state team title and were runners-up at the State Duals, going 28-1 overall. The Hawks have a large senior class and will have to rely heavily on their leadership to remain atop the tough Wamac. West Delaware does have some strong individuals, including state champion Patrick Woods and two-time state medalist Jake Voss. Sam Phillips (36) and Brent Lammers (32) had more than 30 wins a year ago, giving the Hawks the building blocks of another successful campaign.
MOUNT VERNON MUSTANGS - Mount Vernon captured a sectional title last year, qualifying for the regional duals before losing in the regional dual final to eventual state champion Davenport Assumption. The Mustangs finished 14-5 last season and placed third at the Wamac tournament, ending the season 17th at state. Plenty of experience returns from last year’s squad, including state runner-up Trey Ryan and Josh Cannon, who placed eighth at 220. The Mustangs have competitive wrestlers at each weight, making them a formidable dual team.
ALBURNETT PIRATES - Alburnett is coming off a historic season for the program, sweeping the Class 1A state team titles, which are the first for the Pirates. They returned five state medalists and six with state experience, including two-time state champion Hunter Washburn and Dylan Windfield, a two-time placewinner who won the 160-pound championship last season. Nine starters return with a .500-record or better and eight of them have 29 wins or better. The Pirates, who were 32-1 last season, will benefit from some young talent, meshing with veterans.
LISBON LIONS - It will be interesting to see how the Lions progress in the second year of Hall of Fame Coach Brad Smith’s return. Numbers could have been better a year ago, but they should be better this season. The Lions have some strong talent in the practice room with Carter Happel, who won a state title as a freshman and went on to win a freestyle national title in the offseason, and Nick Williams, who was highly-ranked most of last season. Lisbon has renovated its wrestling room and the Lions could continue to renovate the program with successful results.