The month of December will show the Beaufort High School wrestling team where it stands.
The Eagles start the season with a different look than they are accustomed. Only three of the team's nine Class 4-A state qualifiers return.
Coach Bill Damude expects to draw strength from his lighter weights after leaning on the upper weights in recent years.
"You hate to call it a rebuilding year, but I think that's where we are," Damude said. "We're going to have a lot of new faces in the lineup this year.
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"So early on, we're going to have some growing pains. It just depends on how fast these guys can progress and work hard in practice."
Beaufort County wrestling teams are coming off a strong season. Each of the county's five public schools produced an individual state champion.
Of those, Isaiah Sloan returns for Battery Creek High School, ranked No. 1 in the preseason Class 1-A/2-A team rankings. And heavyweight Max Ford will be back to defend his title for Whale Branch Early College High School.
Beaufort High is ranked No. 9 in Class 4-A to start the season, a spot ahead of Region 8 rival Bluffton High School and behind seventh-rankled Fort Dorchester and third-ranked Summerville.
The Eagles' three returning state qualifiers are senior Jake Sharp at 106 pounds, sophomore William Spann at 113 and senior Kentrell Seabrook at 220.
Sharp is ranked No. 3 in his class to start the season. Spann is ranked sixth and Seabrook is the top-ranked wrestler at 220 in Class 4-A.
Damude said Seabrook had the strength and speed to do well at 220. He said Seabrook benefited in past years from wrestling in practice against Tyler Wilson, Clint Wright and Codrian Smalls.
"He's just a big, strong kid -- my goodness," Damude said. "I had some of the assistant coaches wrestling with him yesterday and were like 'Man, its hard to move that kid.' "
Damude has tried to pull in some of Seabrook's football teammates to help fill the heavier weights. He expects Mitchell Nestler to wrestle and was hoping for linebacker Tyler Clancy to take the mat.
Eric Blakely, an Eagles running back, will again wrestle at 170 when he recovers from an ankle injury.
But Beaufort High's strength will be among its lightest wrestlers.
Sharp owns the fastest pin in school history. Spann will be joined by younger brother, Kameron, who will provide depth at 106 with twins Tramone and Tramon Jenkins.
"It's going to be a little bit different team makeup this year," Damude said. "When you lose 10 seniors, it's going to affect you."
2013-14 High School Wrestling Team Preview Capsules
Coach: Nathan Day (13th year, 231-46-2)
2012-13 results: 32-14, lost to Bamberg-Ehrhardt in the Class 1-A/2-A Lower State semifinals and finished fifth in the individual state tournament
Notable losses: DeAndre Johnson, Jimmy Sanchez, Brandon Gray
Top returning wrestlers: Isaiah Sloan (state champion), Brian Labean (fourth at state), Joseph Cuevas (state qualifier), Jonathan Wright (state qualifier)
Key newcomers: Tyler Muterspaugh, Omar Daniels, Cooper Kaminsky, Liam Payne
Strengths: "With 27 experienced wrestlers returning, there should be a veteran in each weight class," Day said.
Weaknesses: "There are only five weight classes that return a wrestler with a winning record."
Coach's prognosis: "On paper, the team seems stronger than last year, but losing one or two guys to injuries can be devastating for a wrestling team in a dual meet," Day said.
Coach: Bill Damude (26th year, 359-151)
2012-13 results: 23-7, 4-1 Region 8-AAAA, finished top-eight in Class 4-A duals and runner-up in individual tournament
Notable losses: Forrest Kimbrell (34-12), Michael Holmes (41-14), Brandon Blackmon (19-15), Trey Arant (35-8), Codrian Smalls (16-3), Clint Wright (53-3), Tyler Wilson (41-8)
Top returning wrestlers: Jake Sharp (113 pounds), Will Spann (120), Brahm Gideon (132), Will Valentin (138), Connor Gruel (145), Brian Lentz (160), Eric Blakely (170), Connor Lundgaard (195), Kentrell Seabrook (220)
Key newcomers: Tramone Jenkins (106), Tramon Jenkins (106), Kameron Spann (106), Mitchell Nestler (195)
Strengths: "We have a strong group of returning varsity wrestlers mixed with some good young guys," Damude said. "Our numbers have helped us sustain a successful program from middle school through high school."
Weaknesses: "We have a few holes to fill in our lineup."
Coach's prognosis: "With some strong returners and a group of dedicated young wrestlers, we hope to compete for the region title," Damude said.
Coach: John Hollman (10th year, 198-46)
2012-13 results: 13-5, 1-4 Region 8-AAAA
Notable losses: Austin Farmer (state champion, 138 pounds), Kyle Waddell, Edgar Prada
Top returning wrestlers: Levi Joly (state runner-up, 112), Mike Meyerink (three-time state qualifier), Lloyd Williams (2012 state qualifier), Talon Seitz
Strengths: "Some really skilled and talented wrestlers," Hollman said. "Depth at lower weights."
Weaknesses: "Heavier weight classes. Having to possibly forfeit the heavyweight classes makes it hard to compete at an elite level in 4-A. Third year in a row unable to get the heavier weight class kids to come out and participate."
Coach's prognosis: "Expect to compete for the region title and make a deep run in the state playoffs," Hollman said. "Much of our success is dependent upon participation. Fortunately, we have several wrestlers who have a legitimate shot at winning state titles. Last season, we had three wrestlers out of 14 weight classes represented in the 4-A semifinals and two in the finals. This season we expect that number to increase, and perhaps have four or more state finalists and multiple state champions."
HILTON HEAD HIGH
Coach: Mike Newton (Seventh year, 169-66)
2012-13 results: 28-15 overall, 4-1 Region 7-AAA, lost in second round of duals to Socastee
Notable losses: Label Lewis (3-A wrestler of the year, two-time state champion), J.C. Graham (195, state qualifier), Trevon Rawls (152, state qualifier), Tyler Fick (113, state qualifier)
Top returning wrestlers: Brock Massey (138, state qualifier), Matt Levy (120, state qualifier), Jose Gomez (152), Martin Duane (182)
Strengths: "Numbers -- could be the largest wrestling team in school history," Newton said. "Youth -- normally that is not considered a strength, but younger guys sometimes show a hunger to get what they have yet to achieve."
Weaknesses: "Lack the one hammer. First time since 2006 we do not return a state placer. Don't have the one guy you can put on anyone and expect a win."
Coach's prognosis: "We look to compete for a region and Lower State championship. We lost by four points to the two teams in the Lower State championship match last season."
Coach: Steve Broome
No information provided
Coach: Josh Duplessis (First year)
2012-13 results: School-record six individual state qualifiers
Notable losses: Mark Rivers, Trey Nelson
Top returning wrestlers: Max Ford (Heavyweight state champion), Javon Gardner (state qualifier)
Key newcomers: Thomas Vicuna (152), Eric Saunders (160), Sonja Jones (195/220)
Strengths: Senior leaders in returning state qualifiers Max Ford and Javon Gardner
Weaknesses: Extremely young lineup with some inexperience
Coach's prognosis: "A good, realistic goal is to have a .500 record in dual meets, and hopefully at least place top-three in one of our individual tournaments," Duplessis said. "I want to qualify four state qualifiers this year."