The Scott West wrestling team enters its 30th year as a program as the No. 9 rated team in Class 2A.
The Panthers look to prove that No. 9 ranking as the season starts with a quadrangular meet at Anoka on Wednesday.
“I am pretty certain that you would have to go back quite a few years to find a Scott West team starting the year rated as low as No. 9,” co-head coach Darren Ripley said. “I think that there might be a lot of people out there thinking that this is the year that the Scott West train will go off the track but then I see Jace Demmers and a dialed in group of teammates have an outstanding first week of practice so I say maybe think again.”
Speaking of Demmers, the senior enters the season with big expectations after finishing in third place at the Class 2A state meet last season.
Those expectations aren't just coming from him and his team but from the wrestling community as Demmers enters the season as the No. 1-ranked wrestler in Class 2A at 160 pounds, by the Guillotine.
Demmers isn't the only Panther that starts the season out ranked by the Guillotine.
Sophomore Zach Tracy starts the season ranked No. 4 at 113 pounds after he went 30-15 last season.
“Zach really came into his own last year as a wrestler,” Ripley said. “He really matured both physically and mentally and with another added year to that growth he just might be set to become one of the best lightweights in the state.”
The third member of the Panthers that starts the season ranked his senior Colton Bahr. He is ranked No. 8 at 138 pounds.
Bahr, returns to the mat this season after missing most of his junior season with an injury. As a sophomore, Bahr helped the Panthers qualify for state as a team and he also qualified individually.
“We will need Big Move Bahr to have a big year and that starts with staying healthy,” Ripley said. “It would be really nice to see what kind of a year that Colton could put together in a full season of wrestling and hopefully that will happen this year.”
Beyond that, the lineup isn't bare; Ripley and the Panthers also return experience in seniors Hunter Struffert and Trent Rasmussen along with juniors Luke Fogarty and Tory Pumper.
All four of those wrestlers helped Scott West reach the section championship match last year.
Struffert and Rasmussen will anchor the Panthers upper weights while Fogarty and Pumper will wrestle in the lower weights.
Stuffert went 34-15 last year while Rasmussen finished with a 20-19 winning record.
“Hunter is going to have to anchor the top of our line up and close out meets for us this year,” Ripley said. “He should know what it is all about after being in the middle of it all last year and I think Trent struggled a little bit with the jump in weight classes last year and was often undersized in his matches. Trent looks much more the part this year as he just appears to bigger and stronger so it will be exciting for us to see if that translates into a better mat performance this year and I think that it will.”
As usual, the Panthers will have their hands full with a difficult schedule starting with the meet on Wednesday against Class 3A's No. 12 ranked Anoka along with St. Cloud Tech and Royalton-Upsala.
“We have never opened up on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving so it will be interesting to see how it all works out,” Ripley said. “Our wrestlers have had a really good first week of practice so it will be good to see what they can do in live competition and then hopefully we can all enjoy a nice Thanksgiving meal on Thursday without anybody having to worry about making weight on Saturday.”
Scott West will also wrestle Class 3A ranked teams New Prague, Northfield, Prior Lake and Wayzata in addition to competing at the Minnesota Christman Tournament and the Rumble on the Red.