The Chatfield wrestling team will return a lot of talented individuals from last year's team that placed third in the Class A state wrestling tournament.

Although southeastern Minnesota is always competitive, the Gophers are hoping for another successful season this year as they get off to a late start due to the extended football season.

Seven entrants in the state individual wrestling tournament return, including senior Harvey Friederichs, who took third at state last year and has a 140-36 record, and junior Hank Friederichs, who took third at state and has a 113-19 record. Senior Alex Haffner, who has a 148-53 record, and senior A.J. Riley, who has a 103-32 record, also competed at state as did junior Jared Goldsmith, junior Ryan Meeker and senior Cody Bly.

Other returning starters are seniors Tye Bentz and Jayton Nisbit, juniors Jacob Bleess, Ethan Wright and Logan Karver, sophomores Austin Dahl and Monte Flores Ruesink, and freshman Ty Van Sickle.

Filling out the team this season are senior Mitchell Meeker, junior Chase Bartels, freshman Kevin Bradt and eighth grader Jake Mandt.

Although coach Joel Viss has good numbers, many of the wrestlers are similar in size, making it a bit difficult to fill the 14 weights. Still, he is optimistic, saying that he has a lot of hard workers on the team that are real motivated and did a lot of things to help their cause in the offseason.

On their way to the third place finish at state, the Gophers went 31-2 overall and 8-0 in the conference. He hopes to be right back in the running for the top spot again this year, but acknowledges that the competition in southeastern Minnesota is very tough.

"We will have to work hard if we want to be in the top four in the section and conference," Viss said. "The rule around this part of the state seems to be 'upset' so the race for conference and section title will be a good one. We believe that through hard work...we can be in that race."

Goodhue, Kenyon-Wanamingo and Zumbrota-Mazeppa seem to be pretty solid again, based on last year, but he is sure other schools have made improvements, too.

Viss, who wrestled at Bemidji State University, started coaching at Chatfield in the 1984-85 school year and has amassed a 353-231-5 record at Chatfield. His assistants have also been in the program for several years with Travis Bartels, a standout from Stewartville, coaching for 13 years and Chatfield alumnus Tony Johnson coaching for 12 years.

The team got a late start due to the success of the Chatfield football team, but participated in the Winona individual tournament Saturday. Next on the schedule is a tournament at Park High School in Cottage Grove on Saturday, Dec. 14. Dual meet action begins Tuesday, Dec. 17, at home against Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland.