STRATFORD, Wis. (WSAW) -- Not one, not two, but three? That's what the Stratford wrestling team is hoping to accomplish this season. State champs in division three the last two years, the Tigers are off to a good start this season, the number one ranked team in the state yet again.
"You know I guess their chemistry has been real good. The old guys have accepted the young guys, or the newer guys,” head coach Joe Schwabe said. “The newer guys don't miss a beat, they feel like they're supposed to win, they go out and wrestle hard, they get after it, they've gotten a lot of pins."
Schwabe has been running the show at Stratford for 22 years, in September, he was named wrestling coach of the year in the state of Wisconsin.
“He does a good job including everyone on the team,” Stratford senior wrestler Manny Drexler says. “It really brings a family feel when we're all competing and traveling places, so it's a nice atmosphere."
The Tigers are two time defending state champions, but they've also lost many prominent players on those teams to graduation. That's where the depth of this program really comes into play, with many wrestlers that were reserves over the last couple of years stepping up to play prominent roles on this years' team. It's been a challenge, but so far, so good.
"Well I think the teams we had the last two years we had a lot of guys who were multiple state champions and they're going to be college wrestlers, and they set that tone, set that bar working that way,” Schwabe said. “This group almost wants to prove to themselves or prove to each other that 'hey we might not be multiple state champions individually, but together as a team, we're pretty darn good.’"
While there's still a long way to go in the season, when the Tigers let their mind wander, what would a three-peat mean to this group?
Schwabe says: "(It would be) pretty neat, as I mentioned three years ago we were there and lost in a tie, so that was a heartbreaker for us. It would be a big win, and then for our juniors returning, they'd have high hopes for their senior year as well."
This might be a different looking Tiger team, but it's still one with nine wrestlers individually ranked in the top-ten of their weight class. Having a target on their back doesn't scare them, at this point, it's basically all they know.