Waterloo 152-pounder Trevor Firari hits a double leg on Bonduel’s Max Sokolski in the second round of the 2020-21 WIAA Division 3 state tournament in Wausau, while Pirate coach Thurston Schuster looks on. Sokolski captured a 10-4 victory.

Waterloo’s wrestling program made major strides last season. Loaded with seniors, the Pirates claimed their first Capitol Conference championship in school history. The Pirates also dominated their regional, winning it outright, before getting knocked out of sectionals with a 5th place finish.

Two Pirates, Juan Alonso and Trevor Firari, advanced to state. Neither came home with a title, but the accomplishment was impressive nonetheless. Alonso was a senior and will not return, but Firari’s career is just beginning as he accomplished that feat as a freshman.

“Resiliency was a big word with our team last year,” Waterloo head coach Thurston Schuster said. “We tried to take advantage of every chance we had.”

Alonso, a first team All-Conference selection last year, isn’t the only decorated senior leaving in graduation. Also gone from the program are Francisco Moreno (first team All-Conference), Jonathan Aguero (second team All-Conference), Reynol Limon (second team All-Conference) and Kyle Fugate (second team All-Conference).

That is a load of production to return for Waterloo, which finished 6-0 in the conference last season.

Firari will obviously be looked to for leadership this year. The sole returning state qualifier and first team All-Conference selection, Firari will be the first name that comes to mind when opponents see Waterloo looming on the schedule.

“He’ll be our anchor as a sophomore,” Schuster said. “They’re big shoes to fill but he’s put in good work in the weight room and out of the season. At the state level, I think he’s kind of underrated. I think he’s ready to break through.”

Firari has plenty of other young buddies that will be asked to step up as well for the Pirates this season. According to Schuster, Waterloo will have eight sophomores and four freshmen competing for varsity spots this year. Among them are standouts like Ryan Sturgill, Owen Haseleu, Ian Spoke, and Mathieu Watson.

”They are very mature and motivated in the weight room,” Schuster said of his younger wrestlers. “These guys push each other to get that extra set, that extra rep. It translates to the wrestling mat, too. They’re young but, with a year of experience, they can step up.”

A more experience leader returning to the squad is junior Jacob Soter. Soter, who wrestled at 132 last season, took home a regional championship last season. He and Firari are the most decorated returning wrestlers and will be asked to continue to step up.

The one major question looming over the program is the participation of senior Mex Besl. As a junior, Besl was named first team All-Conference in the 220 weight class. But, after a hard-fought football season, the jury is still out on if he will wrestle this season. He would be the lone Waterloo senior this season if he did choose to participate.

“We will definitely be young,” Schuster said. “But, I think this group is willing to take that challenge and keep us on top of the conference.”

Waterloo’s season will kick off Saturday, Dec. 4 with a tournament at Johnson Creek High School. The Pirates have a quick follow-up with a dual with Markesan coming Tuesday, Dec. 7. Waterloo will host its own invitational on Saturday, Dec. 18. Waterloo has quite awhile to get ready to defend its Capitol Conference championship as the first conference meet isn’t until a dual with Marshall on Jan. 13.

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