By Tom Ramstetter, Cincinnati Enquirer Contributor
The Moeller High School wrestling program finds itself in a familiar spot as the top-ranked team in the Enquirer Division I area coaches' poll with the regular season scheduled to begin Friday across the state.
But the Crusaders will shoot for a seventh straight district title under new head coach James Yonushonis, who has taken over for Jeff Gaier.
Yonushonis was the head coach at Bishop Ready High School in Columbus the past two years and has been an assistant at the University of Maryland and a club coach at Penn State in previous stops.
"I'm just growing in familiarity (with area wrestling)," Yonushonis said. "It's enough to know that Moeller has been on top for a long time now and that's one of the things that made coaching here so attractive."
The transition has been mostly smooth.
"Change is a difficult thing for everybody, so we've had a couple little bumps in the road on the change," Yonushonis said. "But I think it's overall been really good. Guys are responding and really starting to work hard."
Yonushonis' top returners will be junior Jacoby Ward and senior Conner Ziegler. Ward won district and placed fourth at state as a sophomore at 132 pounds. Ziegler was a district runner-up at 120. Ziegler will wrestle at 126 a bit, but should be at 120 by the end of the season. Ward will start at 145 and likely finish at 138, according to Yonushonis.
"They win," Yonushonis said of Ward and Ziegler. "That's the easy way of putting it. Winning is really a habit for those guys and so is their training. They take it upon themselves. Whether I was going to be the coach next year or coach Gaier was going to be the coach next year, those guys were going to find a way to win. They're so focused that they're going to do anything that is necessary to win and I think that's one of the things that separates them. Technically, they're just very savvy. On their feet, they're stubborn as can be in giving up a take down. They obviously know how to score takedowns and bring the offense too. They're equally tough on the mat."
The Crusaders also have juniors Joe Hensley and Jack Meyer returning to fill the 220 and 285 weight classes with the Moeller football season coming to an end.
No. 2 Mason and No. 3 La Salle also received first-place votes in the preseason poll and should be right on the Crusaders' heels by the postseason. Mason returns sophomore Zack Donathan, who won district and was sixth at state at 106 as a freshman, and senior Patrick Kearney who won district and was sixth at state at 113. La Salle sophomore Corey Shie won the district title and was fifth at state at 120 as a freshman, and sophomore Andrew Sams was eighth at state as a freshman at 126.
Elder, Harrison, Fairfield, Lakota West. St. Xavier, Loveland and Glen Este will be other area Division I teams to watch.
Yonushonis has lofty goals for the top-ranked team.
"You sell yourself short any time you shoot for less than a state title, so that's always the goal," Yonushonis said. "You really create your own reality that you are a state champion and that's what I'm trying to get all the guys on my team to do. In reality, I hope at the end of the season we exhausted every effort to do that."
In Division II, Blanchester is atop the Divisions II-III preseason coaches' poll. Perennial power Ross also received first-place votes and is No. 2. The Rams have nearly 50 state qualifiers in the last 20 years, including senior Aaron Cox who was fourth at district at 113 last season.
Western Brown, Wilmington, Bethel-Tate, Reading, Deer Park, New Richmond, North College Hill and Norwood will be other teams to watch in the smaller-school divisions.
Wrestlers to watch
•La Salle sophomore Corey Shie won the Division I district title and was fifth at state at 120 as a freshman.
•La Salle sophomore Andrew Sams was eighth at state as a freshman at 126 in Division I.
•Mason sophomore Zack Donathan won district and was sixth at state at 106 as a freshman in Division I.
•Mason senior Patrick Kearney won district and was sixth at state in Division I in 2014 at 113.
•Moeller senior Conner Ziegler was a district runner-up in Division I at 120.
•Moeller junior Jacoby Ward won district and placed fourth at state as a sophomore at 132 in Division I.
•Lakota East senior Daniel Roth was a Division I runner-up at 106.
•Loveland junior Jordan Paul was district runner-up at 152 in Division I.
•Fairfield senior Dillon Leneave won district at 145 in 2014 in Division I.
•St. Xavier senior Jonathan Jones was a Division I district runner-up and placed fourth at state at 195 last season.
•Ross senior Aaron Cox was fourth at district at 113 in Division II.
•Bethel-Tate senior Aric Peters was fourth at state at 120 in Division III.
•Deer Park senior Austin Siemon was seventh at state at 152 in Division III. [Read More]