BLANCHARD — The Montabella Mustangs have had a solid wrestling program for the last several years. This year should be not different.
Loaded with 14 returning letterwinners, the Mustangs are primed to repeat as Central Michigan Athletic Conference champions. The goal now is to reach Battle Creek at the end of February.
“This year could be very successful for us,” Montabella coach Shaun Balhorn said. “We would like to repeat as conference champions and make a run toward the team state tournament.”
Montabella went 25-5 en route to the CMAC title last year — its second in four years.
The Mustangs return three of its five conference champions in Zach Taubitz (119 pounds), Logan Burns (152) and Dan Davidson (285). All five runner-ups return with Dustin Scott (103), Tristan Viglianco (112), Dalton Kuklewski (130) and Jonny Durham (171). Third place finisher Joey Durham (140) also returns.
Just four of the Mustangs 14 returning wrestlers are seniors. Gone are conference champions Thomas Ranney (140) and Jeremy Quezada (285). Quezada is an assistant coach with this year’s team.
“Logan Burns and Jonny Durham are coming off great seasons last year, with both reaching the state tournament,” Balhorn said. “Each look to improve this season and their work ethic should take them there again.”
Burns placed fourth at regionals and Durham third to qualify for the Division 4 state tournament last year.
“Tristan is a very good leader and Zach has very good athletic ability,” Balhorn said. “Joey is very quick and and Dan is a big, strong wrestler. His size and ability makes him a very good contender this season.”
In addition to experience, Balhorn said his team has great chemistry.
“We are stacked with a lot of experience and team chemistry,” he said. “We want to finish strong at the end of the season and peak at the right time of the year.”
Like a year ago, Dansville (second place) and Carson City-Crystal (third place) figure to battle the Mustangs for the conference title.
“Our conference is going to be stronger than it has in the past few years,” Balhorn said. “Both Carson and Dansville will have tough teams to battle with. Fulton is also a strong program. We hope to be in the mix to repeat as champs.”
Montabella opens the season with a quad on Dec. 5 at Pine River. Their first home match will be the Mustang Round Robin tournament on Dec. 15.