Joe Caniglia has seen plenty of cycles in Hudson wrestling over the years.
Entering his 24th year in charge of the Explorers, Caniglia has the benefit of experience as he enters this winter.
"The one thing that has changed my perspective over the years is there’s different ways to define success in this sport," he said. "We push our kids hard and we coach them up. We give them the best wrestling experience we can. There’s some things beyond our control that affect how we do."
Those things include the strength of Northeast Ohio wrestling in general and the Suburban League National Conference in particular. While Caniglia notes the bulk of his team is multi-sport athletes, he realizes his kids often run into year-round wrestlers.
"Some of those other schools have feeder programs and youth programs to the point where kids are coming to high school with 2,000 matches under their belt," Caniglia said. "We’re doing the best we with what we have and that’s OK."
Last year, Hudson was OK. This Explorers went 10-3 in dual meets and 4-3 in the National Conference. Hudson finished 11th in the Suburban League Tournament and sixth in the Chagrin Falls Township Kenston sectional tournament.
Caniglia expects another tough challenge in the National Conference with state powers Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Wadsworth likely on top again.
"We have 43 kids and we have a large number of football players on our team," he said. "They’re getting a good message from the football program about competing. We have a couple of cross country runners with us. I tell a lot of our lightweights, ‘You should be running cross country.’"
Caniglia said his team should benefit from some freestyle wrestling work in the offseason.
"I think we had a very successful last spring of wrestling," he said. "I think they gained some confidence.
"Our primary focus is we’re going to control things we have control over. We’re going to make the most important thing the most important thing. If we can keep our kids in the moment, I think they will succeed."
Caniglia’s coaching staff remain the same, with former Hudson wrestlers Tyler Peacock and Addison Carbone, along with former Crestwood wrestler Garrett Gerardi serving as assistants.
Hudson didn’t lose a huge senior class, but it did lose some quality wrestlers. State qualifier Michael Caniglia, two-time district qualifiers Shane McGinnis and John Sweet, along with Jacob Peters and Brenden Morris all graduated.
A trio of young wrestlers will compete to start at 106 pounds in sophomores Carter Morris and Sean Nowicki and freshman Aidan Johnston.
Things are more settled at 113 pounds, as sophomore Logan Morris returns after starting at 106 pounds last season. Caniglia notes Morris is one of several wrestlers looking to take the next step, as he finished sixth last year at sectionals.
"What we want to see from Logan this year is consistency in his performance," Caniglia said.
Sophomore Riley Yerkey and freshman Jackson Lutz provide depth at 113.
The starting spot at 120 pounds is up for grabs, with junior Ethan Boicey, sophomores Will Broadbeck and Christian Tong and freshman Zach Heisa all in in the mix.
Junior 126-pounder Matt Hartle is back in the starting lineup after wrestling mostly at 113 last season.
"He’s much more physically developed," Caniglia said. "Him getting a little bit stronger and more confident is big."
Freshman Ty Dennison will provide depth at 126.
Caniglia expects a season-long battle between sophomores Ben Romano — a sectional placer last year at 132 pounds — and Grant Hall for the starting spot at 132.
After missing the first half of last season with an injury, junior Will Davis wrestled his way to districts at 126 pounds. Davis will start at 138 pounds this winter, as Caniglia said a full season will benefit him a lot.
"He’s a smart kid; he loves the sport," Caniglia said. "He has some mat savvy. We look for him to surprise some people."
Junior Gavin Wervey is back at 145 pounds after finishing sixth at sectionals last season. Freshmen Eric Wheatley and Noah Batcher will provide depth.
After winning some junior varsity tournaments last year, junior Ethan Planchet looks to get the starting nod at 152 pounds. Juniors Ethan Forrest and Spencer Pulte and freshman Zane Zarges will push for time.
Caniglia is very high on sophomore 160-pounder Aidan McStay, who was a district alternate at 138 pounds last winter.
"He had a very successful season of freestyle," Caniglia said. "He placed at the freestyle state meet. He’s a very well-conditioned, strong-willed young man."
The slot at 170 pounds might contain the most intrigue this season. Junior Nick Jackson and sophomore Cash Halter each come off of successful JV seasons, but freshman Matt Clapper might be the Explorers’ top newcomer. Clapper qualified for the junior high state meet last winter.
Two more JV call-ups will battle for the starting spot at 182 pounds in sophomore Josh Brewer and Ian Krauss.
Junior Brendan Demuynck has trimmed down to 195 pounds this winter, after qualifying for districts last season at 220 pounds. Caniglia said Demuynck should add some technique to the raw power he displayed last winter.
"He had a very successful football season," Caniglia said. "He has trimmed down and took good care of his body. He had a very successful freestyle spring with us as well. He’s more of a Clydesdale than a thoroughbred."
With Demuynck moving down, Caniglia said the race to start at 220 pounds is "very open." Junior Nick Peri, sophomore Spencer Warman and freshman Anthony Williams are in the mix.
Both of the seniors on Hudson’s roster will wrestle at heavyweight, anchored by Garrett O’Connell, who reached districts last season in his first year of wrestling.
"He’s much more physically strong," Caniglia said. "He has improved his positioning so much."
O’Connell will be joined by his fellow starting defensive tackle at heavyweight, as senior David Eubank is in his first year of wrestling.
The Explorers are scheduled to open their season at home Dec. 6 with a tri-meet vs. Cuyahoga Falls and New Concord John Glenn. The match is set to take place in Hudson’s auxiliary gym. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO.