Considering all of its success in the last decade-plus, it would be safe to assume there would be an abundance of athletes who would compete for the Hudson boys swimming and diving team.

Believe it or not, that is not the case.

"Our numbers are smaller than they were in the past," said 13th-year head coach Matt Davis, who is 94-23 at Hudson and 214-36 overall. "Honestly, I think we’re going to struggle a little bit at the state meet."

To "struggle" at the state meet is certainly a luxury most teams will gladly take.

And it won’t be the first time the Explorers prove quality is better than quantity.

One way or another, Hudson can still be considered an elite team in the state this winter despite not having the usual overwhelming depth it normally has.

Last season’s performance certainly justifies that fact.

The Explorers finished sixth at the 2018 Division I state meet and shared the Suburban League National Conference title with Brecksville-Broadview Heights.

Hudson did lose some of its best swimmers from a season ago.

Graduating seniors included Jacob Tuckerman, Dylan Ruscin and Sam Martinez.

Tuckerman, who is now swimming at Florida Southern College, was on the third-place 400-yard freestyle relay team and the sixth-place 200 freestyle relay team at the state competition. He also placed 23rd in the 200 freestyle.

Ruscin and Martinez were members of the state-qualifying 200 medley relay team.

The Explorers also took a hit with the loss of Liam Clarke, who was a member of the 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams and added a 22nd-place finish in the 100 breaststroke at the state meet. Clarke and his family moved to Atlanta earlier in the year.

"We need some help from our sophomores and juniors to make an impact," Davis said.

Fortunately, there is some good news for Hudson this upcoming season. It is really good news, as a matter of fact.

The Explorers will have their state champion back in the mix.

He is Jay Johnson, who recently signed at national letter of intent to continue his academic and swimming careers at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

Johnson won Hudson’s first state title since current University of Florida standout Ross Palazzo in 2015. Johnson captured the gold medal in the 100 freestyle. He also took a silver in the 200 freestyle and was a member of the 400 and 200 freestyle relay teams.

"I’ve been coaching Jay since fourth grade," Davis said. "I knew he had the potential to be pretty good because he’s a bigger kid.

"Seeing kids like Jay and (Hudson senior) Maddie (Hannan) go through club (Hudson Explorers Aquatics Team, which Davis is the head coach) and grow and mature is the best part of my job."

Johnson and Hannan were part of the HEAT’s "green" group, which featured many future state qualifiers.

"We had green, red, white, blue, bronze and silver," Davis said. "They would come in three days a week. We had kids who played other sports after school. The green group was the place to be."

Another senior who could join Johnson in Canton is Caleb Cosentino.

"Caleb just missed qualifying in the 100 fly and 500 free," Davis said. "He is poised to make it this year."

Other seniors include Matt Matolka, who is expected to swim the 100 butterfly and backstroke races, and diver Evan Hamm.

"Matt has really improved over the four years," Davis said.

Caleb Tuckerman, who was on the 400 and 200 freestyle relay teams, leads the junior class. He finished 16th in the 500 freestyle at the 2018 state competition.

"Caleb is one of a handful of swimmers who have been state qualifiers their freshman and sophomore years," Davis said. "He had a great summer. He’ll swim the 500 free and 200 IM (individual medley)."

Davis is hoping to have his first state qualifier in diving since former state champion Alex Obendorf, who finished second in 2013.

Junior Hunter Trautmann has made major strides since taking up diving last season.

"Hunter had a great season," Davis said. "He has been working in the offseason. He definitely has the potential to be a state qualifier."

Other juniors who hope to make an impact are Mason Meyer (butterfly and backstroke) and Alek Vizmeg (IM and butterfly).

Four sophomores are looking to crack the varsity lineup, too. They are district qualifiers Seth Baylor (200 IM and 500 freestyle) and Tate Trattner (freestyle) and Dylan Albrecht (distance freestyle and backstroke) and Ben Martinez (distance freestyle and breaststroke).

"Seth and Tate had a great freshman year," Davis said. "Dylan had a great summer and has solidified himself as one of the better swimmers on the team. Ben is all about the team. He wants to motivate the other kids."

Talent can certainly overcome the Explorers’ lack of depth. The team members also have something you simply can’t teach.

"We’re not very big in numbers, but we have a lot of heart," Davis said. "They want to be successful. You can’t ask for anything more than that."

Hudson is scheduled to make its 2018-19 debut against Medina Nov. 30 at the Medina Recreation Center. The meet is set to begin at 6 p.m.

The Explorers are scheduled to compete at the Solon Relays Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @FrankAceto_RPC.