In a county where wrestling takes a back seat to basketball, finding enough wrestlers to fill the 14 weight classes isn't always an easy task.
Lakeside wrestling coach Randy Hill has run into that problem.
"We're missing out on 112-, 119-, and 140-pound wrestlers," Hill said. "I was actually scouting the school trying to find those weight classes."
It's not the first time Hill has dealt with the problem.
Last season, Lakeside went without two weight classes all season long. It didn't stop Hill or the Panthers, who went on to win their fourth consecutive region championship and finished 10th at the state tournament.
Hill said he hopes for similar results this season, but with six seniors gone from last year's squad, Lakeside's defense of the region championship will be an uphill battle.
"It's going to be tough to defend the region title," he said. "There's some good competition in the region this year. Individually, we'll do real well."
Seven returning starters will go a long way in helping the Panthers defend their top spot.
Senior Dennis Miller finished first in the region last season in the 103-pound weight class and also took top honors this season at the team's Black Cat Tournament on Nov. 19.
Three other Panthers, Brandon Golden (130 pounds), Joe Brejda (145 pounds) and Kyle Tau (189 pounds) also finished in first place.
The three other seniors, Kyle Hill, Jake Mace and Frank Munaco, also will contribute heavily to the Panther wrestling season.
Kyle Hill, who finished second in the region last season, has switched to a new weight class and took second place in the 171-pound competition at the Black Cat Tournament.
Munaco took third in the tournament as a newcomer to the Panthers. The senior transferred to Lakeside as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee earlier this fall.
"He's going to do all right for us," Hill said.
The Panthers will hit the road Friday and Saturday for a tournament in Dublin, Ga., at West Laurens High School.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.