Storm Lake High wrestling coach Ty Seaman says he and his team can't help but be a bit disappointed about how this season has gone.
"We just haven't been at full health for most of the season," Seaman said Sunday night. "We knew at the beginning of the year we were young and inexperienced in the low and middle weights and that we lacked depth in the upper weights.
"All our kids have wrestled well at times and they've all shown progress, but there's still a lot of room for improvement," he said.
The Tornado wrestlers go into this Thursday's meet on the road at Sioux City West with an 8-12 dual meet record.
According to Seaman, the dual meet record might be turned around if his team wouldn't have had to forfeit so many matches because of injuries.
And some of the injuries have been key. Last year's only Tornado state meet qualifier - 145-pounder George Romualdo - was out of the lineup for much of January due to a shoulder injury.
"And we've had a lot of other nagging injuries that have hurt us all season long," Seaman added. "It's kept other kids out of various meets.
"And forfeiting matches doesn't help your dual meet record. When George was out of the lineup, for instance, that was 12-point turnaround in our matches.
"But we have a full two weeks to train before districts and we hope to get a lot accomplished in that time," he said. "At districts, its a whole new season and we tell our kids anything can happen if they go out and wrestle hard for a full six minutes and stay aggressive."
Meanwhile at the district meet, which will be held in Fort Dodge Feb. 21, the Tornadoes have a couple of high hopes in Romualdo and senior heavyweight Jake Droessler. The top two individuals in each weight class and the top team advanced to the Iowa State Class 3A meet.
Last season, Romualdo took second at 145, losing the championship district match to Riley Linder of Fort Dodge. At state, Romualdo went 1-2 and came within one match of placing, Seaman said.
It's always difficult to predict who will emerge in certain weight classes, but like Romualdo, Linder is a senior and the district championship match could be reprised.
"The key for any wrestler in districts is to be prepared mentally and to stay focused," Seaman said. "George is a natural wrestler and has great balance.
"He's very strong, but he needs to stay focused mentally. That's something we've been working on with him."
Droessler took third last year at districts, just missing out on a state meet berth in the heavyweight class. According to Seaman, both wrestlers who placed ahead of Droessler last year at districts were seniors and graduated.
"Jake has better than average quickness for a big guy and because of that, he's able to do some things on the mat that other heavyweights can't," Seaman said. "He's very good with a leg attack. Most of all, he works hard in practice, has a great attitude and is extremely coachable."
Romualdo and Droessler have been two of the highlights for the Tornadoes this season,.
Last week, Romualdo won the Lakes Conference championship at 145 pounds.
"That was really nice to see," added Seaman. "It's probably been two or three years since we've had a conference champion."
Romualdo also won 145-pound titles at invitational meets in Emmetsburg and at the BC-IG meet in Ida Grove three weeks ago. Droessler was the heavyweight champion at an invitational meet in Carroll.
Another highlight of the season, added Seaman, was a close loss at home in January to Sioux City Heelan.
"We were disappointed with the ultimate result, but the meet was a positive step forward for us," Seaman said. "We just lost a couple of close matches and that was the difference."
Meanwhile, at districts, Seaman also has high hopes for junior Marc Wiley, who took third at that meet a year ago at 112.
"And (135-pounder) Dustin Huffman has been wrestling well," he added. "He's been on a good streak every since the Christmas break."
More recently, the Tornado wrestlers suffered a tough blow when Ryne Paterson was lost for the season with an elbow injury.
"We're looking forward to our meet Thursday and especially to districts," Seaman said. "We tell our kids that at districts, what you've done during the season doesn't matter.
"The thing we have to do is stay aggressive and wrestle our style," he added. "A real key is staying in good position. When we've struggled, we've got ourselves in bad position on the mat and got into trouble."'
Seaman added that he is optimistic about where the Storm Lake wrestling program is headed. This season, Romualdo and Droessler are the only two seniors on the roster.
"We're really going to miss those two next year," the coach said. "But we have a lot of young kids coming back and if they continue to make progress like they have this year, we'll be in good shape."