The Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy wrestling team will have two state champions, two other state qualifiers and virtually everyone back from the team that took fourth place in Division II last season.
Litte wonder why CVCA coach Dave Bergen is excited about the 2017-18 season.
Bergen enters his 14th season in charge of the Royals dreaming big, yet trying to keep his team focused on improving every day.
"It should be an exciting year. We’re staring off with a good room," Bergen said. "I’d like to win it, but (St. Paris) Graham is a formidable foe. I’m not saying I can’t compete against Graham. We want to win. That’s the way we feel about everybody."
CVCA also will have a deeper team with 21 wretlers in the room this season, thanks to the arrival of a talented freshman class. Because of that, Bergen said he believes the Royals can make a run in the state dual tournament as well this winter.
"This is a pretty solid group of guys," Bergen said. "I think we should get deeper into that tournament."
That said, Bergen acknowledges the road to states will be tough, given the improvement at St. Vincent-St. Mary and the fact Aurora has dropped to Division II this season.
"The district (tournament) at Alliance is way tougher this year," Bergen said. "It has to be the hardest district in the state. St. V is a very tough sectional."
Bergen’s assistant coaches include Paul Charvat, Steve Mischeff, Ryan Logan, Nick Havenor and Tommy Zigler.
CVCA’s schedule is loaded this winter and includes a training trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs during winter break. The Royals also will host the Principal’s Athletic Conference Tournament this winter.
Leading off the lineup for CVCA will be junior Jacob Decatur, who plans to defend his Division II state championship at 106 pounds.
"He’s healthy and he’s feeling good," Bergen said. "Our motivation to him is you can always improve."
Bergen said freshman 106-pounder Caden Scarborough is a future stud, but he might not be able to crack the starting lineup this season.
Starting at 113 pounds will be sophomore Matthew Williams, who was Decatur’s backup at 106 last season.
"He just works incredibly hard," Bergen said.
After missing the state title match at 113 pounds by one point, senior Matt Cardello is focused on winning the state title at 120. Cardello has committed to wrestle at the United States Naval Academy.
"He’s feeling good. He’s ready to capitalize on feeling confident and hopefully be a four-time state placer," Bergen said.
Although some national publications have him wrestling at 138 pounds, Bergen said junior Jordan Decatur will return to 126 pounds, where he is the defending Division II state champion.
"He was able to change up his style and make adjustments," Bergen said. "He made the Cadet World (Freestyle) Team over the summer. We’ve got the right guys pushing him in the room everyday. For Jordan, it’s really staying grounded and staying humble."
Junior 132-pounder Danny Sinchok is one of several district qualifiers for CVCA looking to take the next step.
"He trained a lot during the summer," Bergen said. "Dan has made some gains. We’re counting on him to be a mainstay."
Freshman Austin Pownall, who won a junior high state championship last winter, will get the nod at 138 pounds.
"He has really embracing the transition (to high school)," Bergen said. "He’s a student of the game. We’re excited that Austin chose CVCA."
Freshman 145-pounder Dalton Duvall lost to Pownall in his junior high state title match. Although he attended Waterloo Middle School, Bergen noted he wrestled for CVCA’s middle school club.
Senior 152-pounder Justin West will not lack motivation, as he has finished one win shy of reaching states over the last two seasons
"He has the skills and abilities to be wrestling at the state level," Bergen said. "When he cuts it loose, he can score points in a hurry."
Junior Xavier Parker will get the nod at 160 pounds. A football player, Parker returns to the mat after wrestling in the CVCA youth program.
Senior district qualifier Joe Morales moves up to 170 pounds.
"I want to see Joe use his skills," Bergen said. "He needs to just go have fun, wrestle and enjoy it."
Senior John Doyle will start at 182 pounds, while sophomore first-year wrestler Shane Douglas will start at 195 pounds.
Sophomore 220-pounder Breslin Walker was one win away from All-Ohio honors last March. He was one of only two freshman 220-pounders at states last season.
"He has really trained hard in the offseason," Bergen said. "We’re counting on him having more balance."
Freshman Kyle Miller will serve as backup at 220 pounds.
Sophomore heavyweight Matt Holman was 15 seconds shy of making states last season. Holman will be sidelined during the first half of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, but the 265-pounder should make a big impact once he returns, according to Bergen.
CVCA will open its season at the Walsh Ironman Tournament next Friday and Saturday. First match Friday is set for 2 p.m.
Bergen is also very excited to have CVCA host The Ohio State University wrestling team in a dual meet with Indiana Dec. 10 at noon.