GNADENHUTTEN ----- Officially, he might be the first-year varsity wrestling coach at Indian Valley High, but Nick Swaldo has been around the Braves' mat program for 11 years. The 1999 IV grad wrestled at 130 pounds in his high school days under former coach Bill Gilmore.
Now at the head of the program he has poured a lot of sweat and time into, Swaldo's task is to continue to push the program toward elite status.
"Just look at our next-door neighbors," Swaldo began referring to perennial power Claymont. "If we ever want to climb to the level they are, we need to continue to work harder and make more of a commitment.
"This season we are going to stress conditioning a lot more with the kid," he added. " I think in some matches, stamina can prevail over skill set."
Indian Valley lost five grapplers to graduation, including district qualifiers Dalton Farrow and Ben Aponik. Other departed seniors are Cody Ballentine, Austin Westeren and Brock Metzger.
Early-on, 21 wrestlers had answered the call for pre-season workout, but Swaldo felt that more bodies may join once the Braves' football season wrapped up.
Another challenge facing the first-year mentor is finding the correct weight class for his wrestlers.
"We're going to do some experimenting early to see who can do what," he explained. "We may not have all of our guys settled into their weight classes until the new year."
Contributing to that uncertainty is the fact that Swaldo has only five returning multi-letter winners.
The senior class has three of those veterans, led by district qualifier Logan Ryan (170). Other senior letterwinners are Nathan Wegner (138/145) and Heath Williams (120). The aforementioned trio will be joined by 12th graders Vince Sunderman (126/132) and Daniel Roan (126/132).
Three junior non-lettermen dot the current roster - Marcus Cox (132), Jay Elliott (138/145) and Trevor Kohl (195).
A pair of letterwinning sophomores return in Mitchell Giffin (113/120) and Dresden Korns (138/145). They are joined by fellow sophs Dillon Braglan (152) and Blake Ripley (160).
Completing the current roster is a surprisingly-large freshman class which is nine strong. They are Hunter Baker (152), Cody Booth (106), Michael Dillon (152), David Isaacs (160), Shawn Lendon (Hvy), John Pankush (220), Allen Quillen (132/138), Caden Rostad (145) and Justin Derheimer (106/113).
So far, Swaldo has liked what he has seen and is especially pleased with his numbers.
"Right now, I'd have to say we should be able to fill all of the weight classes this season," he said.
Swaldo pointed to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Tuslaw as the early favorites to be PAC champs, but added "there are some really good wrestlers at every school."
The 2013-2014 schedule is highlighted by a number of tourneys, tri-matches and quads. One such encounter will have the Braves squaring off against Dover, New Philadelphia and Claymont.
Another highlight will come on Saturday, Feb. 1 when Indian Valley hosts the PAC Tournament.
Assistant coaches for the Braves are Dan Swaldo, Matt Schaefer, Dave Bell, Darran Warner and Andy Lahmers.
The Indian Valley wrestling season kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 30 when the Braves join seven other schools at the Coshocton Invitational.
(Note: Team photos for Indian Valley boys' winter sports were not available due to the football team playing in the Region 13 title game.)