The Morton wrestling team has some interesting possibilities throughout its roster as it begins the 2012-13 season.
Eight grapplers return to the Potters' projected line-up and some talented newcomers look to fill in the rest of the spots.
Morton began the season Monday with a trip to Chillicothe to face Illinois Valley Central and Richwoods.
The next day, the squad was scheduled to face Moline, Geneseo and host East Moline.
"The upper weights probably are going to be our strong suit this year," MHS head coach Ed Henderson said of a segment with 12-15 athletes in the four heaviest weight classes.
But there are some notable wrestlers in the lighter categories as well.
Sophomores Austin Sievert and Gabe Pleasants were Class 2A sectional qualifiers a year ago.
Sievert figures to occupy 120 pounds, while Pleasants is targeted for 138.
Reid Butler, a junior, surpassed 20 victories before narrowly missing advancing from the Washington Regional. He is likely to fill the 145 position.
Junior Clay Cone was a second-team all-Mid-Illini Conference performer and won 20-plus matches. He returns to 170.
In 195, senior Joe Geiger also earned second-team all-league acclaim.
In between Cone and Geiger, senior Jake Castleman is the probable choice at 182 after competing regularly a season ago.
Junior Josh Diggs is slotted into 285. Classmate Damon Munoz is a wrestler who could compete for that spot in the second half of the year.
From 170-and-up, Morton is junior and senior heavy. There could be as many as four heavyweights.
Sophomore Brandon Bland, a 106-pounder, will be better equipped against varsity competition after giving up 10-plus pounds on a consistent basis as a freshman.
"It will be interesting to see how he does against kids his own weight," said Henderson of Bland.
A trio of freshmen off last year's Morton Junior High School wrestling team could secure positions.
Jace Glascock is an option at 113, Drew Howell could participate at 132 and Zach Zahn is a possibility at 160. Howell and Zahn were Illinois Elementary School Association state qualifiers.
Junior Kartal Bakirdan (152) and senior Jordan Sigulas (220) also were Potters seeking initial starting assignments.
"By the time we get to the end of the year, we should be in pretty good shape," said Henderson.
Morton has 20-plus grapplers in the freshman and sophomore classes, which should create a solid underclass team even with some of those boys at the varsity level.
"We're finally getting to the point where we'll be loaded for a couple years," Henderson said.
The Potters have a chance to improve upon their sixth-place M-I finish a year ago, but it will not be easy.
Morton tied for fourth with Limestone and Metamora with a 2-4 dual record, but the Rockets and Redbirds outscored the Potters at the M-I tournament.
Page 2 of 2 - "I think there will be a lot of parity in the dual meet conference season," Henderson said. "It will come down to the conference tournament again."
It could be a repeat of last season when no team went through the conference unbeaten.
Washington, which got another influx of talent, won its third championship in a row.
East Peoria again will try to knock off the champs.
Like those two, Canton was 5-1 in duals. Limestone, which rose all the way to fourth place overall, adds competitors off a frosh/soph champion.
Morton tied the Panthers in the league dual last year before Washington was declared the winner using the seventh criteria.
Henderson said the M-I is on an upswing in wrestling. He expects five-seven state qualifiers.
A pair of Potter second-team all-conference honorees — Ryan Wertzler and Landan Dorn — are not out for the sport their senior seasons.
The most notable schedule change is the addition of an invitational at Normal University Jan. 12, which replaces Urbana's tournament the same weekend.
Morton is off until Dec. 1 when it goes to Bloomington for a quadrangular involving traditional state powers.
The Potters are the host of a Feb. 2 regional that is expected to include all the local teams.