After a journeyman career as an assistant, Prairie City-Monroe wrestling coach Cody Waddell will lead a team for the first time this season.
And although this year's Mustangs have plenty to make up for from last year, Waddell is planning on maintaining PCM's recent success for the foreseeable future.
"We're pretty young and have a lot of sophomore this year, but we expect them to step up," Waddell said. "Our goals still are to compete for the conference title. We're PCM wrestling, so we should be competing for that every year."
Waddell's career began at Guthrie Center right out of college and lasted for three years before he began coaching in his hometown at Stuart-Menlo for four years, including when it merged into West Central Valley. He then left coaching to be a referee for five years until he served as an assistant for former PCM coach Matt Teeter, where he has been the past four years.
Along with Teeter stepping down as wrestling coach, the Mustangs lost seven seniors to graduation. Four of those seniors — Dalton Kingery, Jake Tool, Bryce Wignall and Zach Findlow — qualified for state. Kingery and Tool each had podium finishes, and Kingery left with a plethora of school records.
This year's team will feature a much different, younger look. Key returners that saw action from last year include sophomores Tristan Clark (11-5 last season), Ron Marshall (8-3), Jade Coleman (6-2) Dakota Timmins (3-4) and junior Luke Cummings (2-3).
"All of those guys are coming back, so I expect them to find a spot somewhere," Waddell said. "We also have three remaining seniors, so I would expect them to contend for a varsity spot as well."
Waddell has his eyes on other underclassmen as well, including Reece Broderson in the lighter weights and Logan Luttrell in the middle. Although they aren't freshmen, sophomores Jaret Maggart and Alex Fraker spent time at the JV level last year and could make the jump this season.
Despite the general inexperience of the team, Waddell has been pleased with his wrestlers' attitude and work ethic thus far. Much of that could come from the younger wrestlers seeing PCM's recently-graduated state qualifiers and how they went about their routines throughout the season.
"We're one week into practice, but on the very first day we talked about what it takes to meet your goals and make it to the state tournament," Waddell said last week. "After six practices, I can tell you they're working hard towards those goals. I just hope to continue that."
In his first few practices, Waddell has established a slightly different mood in the room than what Teeter had the past few years. He hasn't changed things completely, however, and he tries to keep a mixed bag of all his former mentors with him as he begins his first season at the helm of a program.
"What I told the kids on the first day of practice is of the three coaches I've worked with, I'm bringing a little something from each one so it's different," Waddell said. "It's been great. The wrestling is the wrestling, but it's the paperwork and that kind of stuff that's new to me. But, I'm getting there."
The Mustangs will begin their season on Thursday with a dual at North Polk.