NEW ULM - In years past, the New Ulm wrestling team has not always been able to fill every void in its varsity lineup.
But with seven seniors in the wrestling room this year, that trend can change under third-year coach John Rieser. Having more seniors will provide more coaching for the less-experienced wrestlers, which Rieser said has worked so far.
"The seniors have taken a good leadership role because I do have some kids that haven't wrestled before," Rieser said. "I pair them up and they're helping them out and that's what we need."
The Eagles lost two seniors from last season. Of those two seniors was their most successful wrestler in Luke Cihak, who won the 132-pound title at the South Central Conference tournament and placed fourth in Section 2AA.
Senior Jagger Hoffmann said filling Cihak's shoes will be a challenge.
"It's tough to replace him, we're losing the points he usually earns for us," Hoffmann said of Cihak. "Everybody just has to step up and do their part."
Hoffmann was no slouch as the team's 138-pound wrestler, as he went 22-20 on his way to placing fifth at sections. Rieser said he expects a lot out of Hoffmann this season, but that has yet to faze him.
"There's no pressure to be a team leader and do the best that I can," Hoffmann said. "I try to make sure everybody's doing the best that they can."
Rieser said Hoffmann will either compete at 132 or 138 pounds this season. Rieser expects Hoffmann and Austin Brandes to be two key contributors for his team this season.
Braxton Greenwaldt, who finished 8-22 and placed fifth at 220 pounds in Section 2AA last season, is another senior Rieser has been counting on to instill the winning attitude among his younger wrestlers.
"When we graduate, there will be a lot of empty shoes to fill," Greenwaldt said. "We've got to train a lot of the younger guys to fill in those shoes."
Greenwaldt said he has been pleased with the work that has been going on in the wrestling room so far with emphasis placed on technique.
Technique was something last year's wrestlers struggled with at the beginning of the season. Rieser's approach of starting from scratch this year has helped combat his team's woes in honing technique, but that was not the sole reason for his approach.
"We run a 7-12 program, there is no junior high anymore," Rieser said. "So we have kids that have never wrestled before all the way up to our seniors that have wrestled for a number of years.
"The first week for sure is a lot of technique, but we do work hard and get them conditioned because a lot of wrestling is conditioning too."
Greenwaldt will compete at either 195 or 220 pounds this season. He said he likes the challenge wrestling presents to him athletically.
"I think it's more of a challenge in wrestling than in football because of the required mentality and the things needed for it," Greenwaldt said. "It focuses more on the individual and their individual abilities."
After a two-year absence from the sport due to a shoulder injury, Granger Lehman will be returning to the team to compete at either 220 pounds or heavyweight.
This will be the first time Lehman has wrestled for Rieser.
"He's been around the program, he's tried to come back and he couldn't do it with his shoulder injury," Rieser said of Lehman. "He's been to summer practices, I've talked to him a couple times over the years so I know he's got potential. I'm just hoping he can work hard this year for me and be able to contribute."
New Ulm will begin its season hosting Fairmont and Waseca for a triangular dual meet on Dec. 3. The first match is set to begin at 5 p.m.