The end of the football season was not kind to defending North Shore Conference wrestling champion Germantown and coach Jeff Szohr, as injuries took four potential varsity Warhawks, with only one who may make it back before the end of the season.
Add in a large senior class from last year and a disturbing trend toward lower numbers in wrestling overall, and Szohr is not as optimistic as he feels he should be.
That is despite a sound North Shore Conference opening win over Nicolet on Dec. 1 and a five-champion, second-place finish in the Wisconsin Lutheran Invitational on Dec. 3.
"We graduated eight kids and only picked up six (freshmen)," said Szohr. "That's the first net loss that I can remember in a long while, and the injuries in football cost us four kids between 160 and 220 pounds. A lot of those kids were good back-ups last year who were going to step in this year, but now we're just going to have to make do."
Graduation losses included Szohr's multi-time state qualifying son Zack, who is at UW-Whitewater.
Overall, Germantown has about 22 wrestlers out this winter.
Key returnees include junior 106-pounder Colton Birkigt (6-0 on the season so far), senior Kevin Tamboli at 126 (5-1), sophomore Eric Abel at 138, junior Mason Wheeler at 145 (who has been a frustrating third in WIAA sectional in each of the last two seasons (6-0)), senior Waymon McNeal at 152 (6-0) and senior 285 Dominique Bennett (6-0).
Szohr said this group of returnees is motivated and ready to go.
Others who will help out include sophomore Jeffrey Brezonick at 113, talented freshmen Isaac Riddle at 132 (6-0 so far), junior Eric Sawyer at 160, freshman Hunter Warner at 170, junior Jerry Bagley (4-2) freshman Andrew Seramur at 182 and sophomore Kash Milton-Hollins at 195 ("He's as determined as they come," Szohr said).
Szohr said Port Washington looks to be the favorite in the North Shore this season. He added that if the Warhawks can get healthier, they still should be able to fill most of the weight classes despite the smaller-than-usual numbers.
Szohr was pleased with the effort in the six-team Lutheran Invite, which was played out like a dual-meet invite but was scored similarly to a traditional individual invite. Germantown scored 254 points for its spot, as Lutheran won with 276.
Birkigt, Wheeler, McNeal, Riddle and Bennett all earned class championships, with Wheeler, McNeal and Bennett recording all pins on the day.
"I thought it was a phenomenal tournament for us," said Szohr.
The 55-21 win over Nicolet was a solid effort as Bagley at 182 (forfeit), Seramur at 195 (pin 1:27), Bennett at 285 (pin 1:40), Birkigt at 106 (pin 0:52), Brezonick at 120 (forfeit), Tamboli at 126 (pin 1:46), Riddle at 132 (13-3 major decision), Abel at 138 (9-7 decision), Wheeler at 145 (pin) and McNeal at 152 (pin 1:02) all recorded wins.
Germantown will host Homestead in a North Shore dual on Thursday, Dec. 8, and then will be at the Hartford Invite on Dec. 10.