GLADSTONE - Young and experienced.
That pretty much sums up the Gladstone Braves, who return a vast majority of wrestlers from last year's team.
Chris Walters (at 171 pounds) is the lone graduate from last year's team, which reached the Division 3 regional finals and placed fifth in the Upper Peninsula Championships.
Photo by Jon LaPorte | LaPorte Studio
The 2012-13 Gladstone Braves wrestling team includes: front row, from left; manager Adam Bruce, Jack Simison, Jake Kujala, Devin Larson, Josh Kadish, Travis Evans, Jack Cronick, James Bruce, middle row; manager Kyle McKenzie, Brayden Williams, Keenan Barron, Bobby Beauchamp, Sam Taylor, Jared Syverson, Chuck Hughes, James Capodilupo, Cole Tardiff, Trevor Olson, back row: assistant coach Jonas Olson, Brandon Gagnon, Jeremy Kadish, Bradly Gagnon, Jake Cronick, Tom Bailey, Cody Malanowski, head coach Jesse DeBacker.
The Braves, who open against Marquette Thursday at 6 p.m. in Negaunee, again have just one senior on their varsity roster.
That senior is Josh Kadish (145), who placed fourth in last year's individual regional and became Gladstone's lone representative in the state individual tournament.
"That was a huge experience for Josh," said coach Jesse DeBacker. "Now, he knows what it takes and how hard he has to work to get there. Last year, we were young. The hope is last year's experience will help us."
Dec. 6 - at Negaunee; Dec. 8 - at St. Ignace; Dec. 13 - Escanaba; Dec. 15 - at Marquette.
Jan. 3 - Negaunee, Kingsford and Norway; Jan. 5 - at Escanaba; Jan. 12 - at Kingsford; Jan. 16 - Ishpeming; Jan. 19 - U.P. Championships at Marquette; Jan. 24 - at Menominee; Jan. 26 - at Gaylord; Jan. 31 - at Escanaba.
Feb. 2 - GNC meet at Escanaba; Feb. 6 - D-3 team district at Kingsford; Feb. 9 - D-3 individual district at Negaunee; Feb. 13 - D-3 team regional at Cheboygan; Feb. 16 - D-3 individual regional at Kingsley.
Also back is junior Brandon Gagnon, U.P. runner-up at 152 pounds last season.
Additional junior returners include heavyweight Tom Bailey, Jake Cronick (171), Brayden Williams (125 or 130) and Jared Syverson (125).
Sophomore returners are Jack Cronick (215), Keenan Barron (152 or 160), Jeremy Kadish (140), Sam Taylor (135 or 140), Devin Larson (130 or 135) and Jake Kujala (112 or 119).
"We also have quite a few freshman who are looking pretty tough," said DeBacker. "We have a lot of promise. We're a pretty young team still. But we have a lot of experience, which will hopefully roll over into this year. Hopefully, we can reach our goals."
Promising freshmen include Jack Simeson (103 or 112), James Bruce (112) and Bobby Beauchamp (125).
"I think we're progressing the way we should be," said DeBacker. "The kids are really willing to work hard. They do everything we ask of them, and they put everything into it."
DeBacker, however, is well aware of the challenges in store for the Braves this season.
"We're going up against some tough teams right off the bat," he said. "We face Marquette right away (Thursday at Negaunee) and the St. Ignace Invitational (on Saturday) is a real good tournament.
And the challenges don't end there.
"The GNC (Great Northern Conference) is going to be tough," said DeBacker. "Escanaba is always tough. Marquette has been tough the past couple years. Menominee has most of its wrestlers back and Kingsford is much improved.
"The GNC and U.P. Championships will be tough tournaments. St. Ignace will also be real tough. Hopefully, we'll be right up with the leaders."