The Catamounts lost no starters to graduation in the offseason. Perhaps more importantly, they also kept their leadership at the top.
Michael Keefe returns for his second season as head coach at Dalton, which had two coaches during the 2011-12 season — Charles Mitchell left halfway through the schedule, which former Cats coach Richard Garrett finished out — and the Cats no doubt welcome the stability Keefe brings.
After establishing his expectations last year, Keefe is ready to see progress.
“We had some ups and downs last year, but we fell short at the end when it really counted,” he said. “This year I expect more out of us. We’ve got a young group but they’ve got a lot of talent and they’re working hard. I think we’re going to surprise some people this year.”
It won’t be a shock to see some of the Cats on the medal stand in the postseason, though. Keefe is counting on the core group of seniors Dylan Carlile (132) and Sidney Wheeler (182) and junior Werner Braun (195), and he also sees potential for juniors Jose Garcia (132/138) and Brian Nuñez (138). Wheeler won the Class 3A state title as a sophomore, but Dalton was shut out in its bid for any state medalists last year despite Braun, Carlile and Wheeler combining for more than 140 victories during the season.
Keefe, who said he had 43 wrestlers as of last week, will spend the first half of the season adjusting his lineup in other spots, but he hopes to be ready in January.
“We’re really gunning to do well at area duals,” he said. “I’ve got a full roster and I’ve got kids who will fight and believe, so I think that’s where we really can shine.”
Dalton’s season opens Wednesday at Pickens.