The way Kapaun Mount Carmel coach Tim Dryden sees it, wrestling in the City League is all about cycles.
There will be some seasons like the Crusaders' last two, where they finished fourth place in the league and weren't ranked. Then there will be others like this season, when it's third in the City and ranked sixth in Class 5A.
According to Dryden, teams must pounce on the opportunities like the Crusaders have this season.
"There are years like this one, where good teams are maybe a little down, like Carroll for example," Dryden said. "That's when teams like us have to take advantage. We want to be one of the top teams in the league."
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Kapaun is different than Heights or Northwest — the top two teams in the City — which have numerous wrestlers highly ranked. The Crusaders have a deep squad of what Dryden calls mostly "fringe-ranked wrestlers," which is what makes Kapaun especially dangerous in tournament formats.
"Most teams in the league probably dual better than us and it showed when we lost to South," Dryden said. "But we went to a tournament and beat them soundly, so I think our team is built more for the postseason."
Leading the Crusaders' balanced lineup are seniors Jonathan Truman (29-6 last season and ranked first in 189 this season) and Dylan Matheny (36-12 in '09 and ranked second in 215 this season). Both placed in the top five at state last season and are the only Crusaders ranked higher than fifth in their classes.
Also enhancing Kapaun's prospects is the addition of Jacob Kline to its coaching staff. He's a three-time state champion with the Crusaders and a two-time All-American at Nebraska.
"To be honest, that could be the biggest thing for us," Dryden said. "He brings instant credibility to the wrestling room."
The next four weeks will tell a lot about how far Kapaun has come. To close out the season, the Crusaders face Southeast twice, Northwest, Heights, Carroll and also travel to the difficult Washburn Rural duals.
"Before the season started one of our goals was to win a trophy at every tournament we wrestled at, including regionals and state, and we think that is still attainable," Dryden said. "We have a tough stretch coming up and we know we have our work cut out for us."
Tournament thoughts — The first two weeks in January feature arguably the two most difficult tournaments in the state — Derby and Newton — and there are mixed philosophies on how to approach them.
Northwest coach Eric Prichard chooses to ease his team back from Christmas break by going to the Maize tournament, which has a nice field, but nothing like the star-studded Derby field.
"I think it's a nice way to get back into the swing of things," Prichard said. "There are some good teams at Maize, but the Newton tournament is I think the toughest in the state and Maize gets us ready for that."
On the other hand, Heights coach Mike Church schedules his team in both the Derby and Newton invites. He feels like his team's training over break prepares it forthe grind of back-to-back tough weekends.
"Both of these tournaments give us a look at what we could face at regionals and state," Church said. "It's a way to get great competition right when we get back."