FORTVILLE — Talented youngsters, talented veterans, and talented young veterans, Mt. Vernon’s wrestling team has a nice mix on its roster heading into the 2022-23 season.

Coach Randal Hayes begins his second year as head coach and ninth with the program.

He believes multiple Marauders can go to the state tournament and, team-wise, they could make some noise, too.

“I firmly believe, if everything goes right, we should be able to get five people to the state tournament,” Hayes said, noting the route through the New Castle Semi-State is a tough road to go. He also wants to get back to the top of the Hoosier Heritage Conference and vie for a sectional championship.

The Marauders won back-to-back conference titles in 2019 and 2020, the first two in school history. Greenfield-Central has won the last two. Mt. Vernon was runner-up a season ago. Hayes added they have a goal of winning a sectional, too. They’ve been runner-up in it behind powerful Indianapolis Cathedral teams.

“Being in the sectional we’re in, that’s difficult, but why not us?” Hayes said. “We work as hard as (Cathedral) does. It doesn’t matter where they bring those kids in from. We can still outwork them. That’s our goal, we want a sectional title.”

The Marauders should boast a very strong lineup.

One member already knows the feeling of being at the state tournament.

Sophomore 220-pounder Devin Kendrex did it as a freshman, a remarkable feat for a first-year high school wrestler competing in an upper weight class.

He finished last season with a 31-7 record, suffering a tough 4-3 decision in his opening state tournament match to Chance Harris of Fort Wayne Concordia, who ended up finishing eighth.

He was a runner-up in the semi-state, regional and sectional, all to Cathedral’s Jackson Weingart, who placed seventh.

“The thing about last year, he could have wrestled 195. He was down around 200 most of the year. He’s closer to the 220 range (this year),” Hayes said. “He doesn’t have an off button. He’s wrestled all summer and traveled the country wrestling. He’s avenged his losses from last year. (He beat) the kid from Bellmont (he lost to early in the season). The kid he lost to the Friday night of the state tournament, he’s already beaten him this summer. He’s beat multiple state-placers from last year.

“This is a kid that has one mission. He does not want to be a state qualifier. He does not want to be a state placer. He wants to be Mt. Vernon’s first state champion and that’s the only thing on his mind and he’s doing everything you could ask of him to get there. This kid is a work horse.”

Sophomore Connor Bayliss, who starts out at 113, but is working to get down to 106, where he wrestled last season, is one of two others that reached the semi-state. He was one win away from qualifying for state. Bayliss won 26 matches as a high school rookie.

Senior Aiden Kiner was 30-10 a year ago and is in his third year as a starter. He advanced to the semi-state last year and will wrestle at 145.

Seniors Riley Anderson and Russell Weaver both had their seasons end earlier than they liked a year ago, but both are accomplished grapplers and hungry to improve on junior seasons.

Anderson, a heavyweight is ranked among the state’s Top 15 and won 25 matches last season. At 195, Weaver, a three-year varsity veteran, also won 25 times.

New to the high school scene, but not new to wrestling is frosh Eli Broady (120), who has already grabbed attention before his prep career starts in some state wrestling website rankings.

“We’ve got a really good mix this year of upperclassmen and underclassmen,” Hayes said. “The lineup right now looks like we’re going to have seven or eight freshmen and sophomores. It looks like a complete rebuild, but with the freshmen and sophomores we’ve got, I wouldn’t consider it a rebuild. These guys have had a lot of mat time. They’re naturally leader-type kids. It bodes well for us in the future, but actually even this year, it’s going to help us a lot.”

Another strong freshman Brooks McKeeman is battling with a senior, Tristan Trevino, for a spot at 138, which should be another very competitive weight class for the Marauders. Junior Vanden Vail has varsity experience at 160. Elijah Kiner, younger brother of Aiden, looks to be a strong candidate at 152 along with senior David Medina.

Mt. Vernon opens its season Saturday at the Lawrence Central Invitational.