Cascade’s 2021-22 wrestling team: front from left, Wesley Adams, Ty Frasher, Riley Koppes, Cory Bradtke-Stelken, Trever Freiburger and Brock Morris; back row, Ben Gehl, Chris Mickel, Evan Vogel, Cade Rausch, Alex Gehl, Jacob Stoll and Kodey Miles.

Although the Cascade wrestling program has lost several of its highly-valued grapplers from last year’s squad, coach Travis Andrews sees this year’s team finishing top five in the River Valley Conference with the help of a handful of key returnees.

The Cougars will have six lettermen returning this year but will also be down five starters from last season, including Carson Staner, who finished at 31-10 with several top tournament finishes and the highly decorated, three-time state champ, 46-0 Aidan Noonan, who broke Cascade’s career win and pin record and went four years without missing a practice.

“The team will look a little different than previous years without having a Noonan in the lineup, but we will have a strong core of guys returning that look to make their mark this season,” Andrews said.

Last season, the boys were .500 in both conference competition (6-6) and overall (13-13).

Key to this year’s arsenal are seniors Trever Freiburger (123 pounds) and Kodey Miles (285), along with junior Cade Rausch (220) and sophomore Ty Frasher (145).

“Trever Freiburger returns as a state qualifier from last year — he has put in work over the summer and looks to cap his season off with a return trip to state,” Andrews said. “Kodey Miles is our other senior who will be wrestling heavyweight. Kodey has been a staple in the lineup over the past three years and looks to cap his senior year off the right way. Cade Rausch has moved up a few weight classes since last season and should hold his own at 220. In the middleweights, we have Ty Frasher returning at 145, who missed part of last season with an injury and it has been nice to have him so far this season.”

Andrews also is seeing a lot of promise in freshman Brock Morris, who will be competing at 106.

“I look forward to watching Brock progress throughout the season,” Andrews said. “He’s been working hard this past year and will be exciting to have at 106.”

Additionally, Andrews said the Cougars will have Cody Bradtke-Stelken and Riley Koppes wrestling in the 113-to-126 range, Wesley Adams at 138, Evan Vogel in the middleweight class around 170.

“Overall, all these guys have been working hard since the start of the season and are ready to start competing,” Andrews said. “It will be enjoyable to coach these guys throughout the season.”

Even with strong candidates in several key positions, Andrews predicts one of the biggest challenges this year will be the size of the team.

“It’s going to be difficult to fill all 14 weights, but the guys that we do have will battle each time they step on the mat,” Andrews said. “For the team to have success the guys need to come to every practice expecting to get better, working hard and having an open mind to learning and improving in their positions.”

In the conference, Andrews sees Wilton, West Liberty, Tipton and Mid-Prairie as the top contenders, but still has confidence in the Cougars to make a strong finish.

“I can see this team finishing in the top five at the conference tournament come January,” Andrews said. “We should have five guys who wrestle really well when it comes to tournaments throughout the season.”

Entering his 15th year as head coach, Andrews will be assisted by Baylor Crigger, Alex Ressler, Dale Andrews and Eric Honda.