In his 38th year of coaching at Sandy Valley High School, head coach John Groff will look to his strong core of returning letter winners to provide success once again on the wrestling mats. Last year, the Cardinals posted a dual meet record of 25-9 and finished second in the Inter Valley Conference.
"We lost three good wrestlers through graduation (Andrew Lidderdale, Cole Sickafoose and Jordan Kirkman), but we have some experience coming back if we can fill the gaps," said Groff on his 2012-2013 squad.
Leading the way for the returning letter winners will be senior Sam Groff. Coming off a successful season on the football field, Groff will switch to a sport he has excelled in since his freshman year. He is a three time state qualifier, most recently finishing third at the state meet just a season ago. He was 51-5 a year ago and will once again look to get back to Columbus for a fourth time.
Other returning letter winners are seniors Eric Cassidy (District qualifier), Nick Smith, Brett Stoffer and Dominic Richmond; juniors Jake Geiger (District qualifier), Avery Elifritz, Brandon Carbenia (36-14 record, District qualifier), Hudson Cole, Tyler Lebold, Joey Newman (42-12 record, District qualifier and state alternate) and Evan Offenberger (26-7 record, District qualifier); and sophomore Alex Sterling.
Newcomers that are looking to make an immediate splash on the mats are senior Dakota Bryan, juniors Kevin Helm and Dillon Newell, sophomores Andrew Griffin, Nick Heppe, Gage Dewitt and Bryce Crum and freshman Colin Hughes, Tommy Sancic, Billy Kesling, Jaret Oliver and Quinton Weber.
"Our biggest problem this year is having growing pains and figuring out how to get them separated," said Groff of his team's weaknesses this season. "We have better numbers than last year with some young wrestlers that may be able to fill gaps," he added.
The 2012-2013 Cardinals will open up the campaign on Thursday, Dec. 6 at the New Philadelphia Tri-Meet with New Philadelphia and Tuscarawas Valley. They will turn around the very next day and compete in the Marlington Invitational that will take place Dec. 7 and 8. They will host their only home match of the season on Thursday Dec. 13 when they play host to Newcomerstown and Ridgewood for an IVC Tri-Match. The meet is set to begin at 6 p.m.
"Our goal is to improve through the season and to peak at the end. The conference will be tough as Garaway will return most of their lineup. They will be the team to beat in the IVC. Ridgewood and Newcomerstown were also wrestling strong last year with some good experience coming back.
Groff will be assisted this year by Jason Neading and Greg Donahue. The junior high coaches this season are Chris Essig and Bill Natale.