Returning eight starters, including two sectional qualifiers, the St. Clair wrestling Lady Bulldogs are looking forward to Friday’s opening match at Washington High School.

The event is slated to be part of an outdoor event at Scanlan Stadium starting at 4 p.m. Washington is wrestling the Westminster Christian Academy boys and St. Clair girls.

St. Clair went 11-4 in dual meets last year.

Senior Summer Fangers, sophomore Audrey DeClue, junior Hannah Thacker and senior Kaitlyn Janson are top returners.

“All four have the tools and capabilities necessary to go deep into the postseason this year,” St. Clair Head Coach Mel Hughes said.

Hughes said the team has many goals for 2021-22.

“We are looking to repeat as team conference champions and be in the mix for a district team trophy,” Hughes said. “After finishing just out of a team trophy last year, finishing third, we believe it is within our grasps with our deep and talented roster.”

Hughes hopes to have success in the postseason as well.

“We also have a goal of getting multiple girls to the state tournament and compete for medals and championships,” Hughes said. “If you are unaware, in girls wrestling, there is only one classification. So you are competing against the entire state all at the same time. Making it to state is no easy feat, but we believe these girls are ready for the challenge.”

Fangers went 21-5 in her rookie season.

DeClue was 13-3 with nine wins by pins before she had her season ended by injury.

Janson was a fourth place in the district tournament last year. In most seasons, that would have been good enough to advance. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, she ended the season at the district level.

“Kaitlyn has the ability to wrestle her best matches on the biggest stages,” Hughes said. “She is always calm and focused when the most is on the line. We expect Kaitlyn to be in the hunt for a state medal this year.”

Thacker is a fighter, Hughes said.

“Hannah is the perfect example of what being mentally tough in wrestling is all about,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who is across the line; she is going to wrestle her match and do whatever she can to come out on top. She has many come-from-behind wins because she never gives up and is always looking for scoring opportunities. If there’s still time on the clock, you’d better never count her out. We expect Hannah to continue to build on that attitude and compete at state.”

Hughes said the returners will be pushed.

“We have many newcomers and second year wrestlers who will make an impact this year,” Hughes said. “Returners such as Andrea Penovich, Lili Vernon, Riley Ostendorf, Bonnie Kavanagh and Liberty McKenzie will get a lot of mat time this year, and we expect them to grow on the success that they had last year. 

“Our newcomers, who are a very athletic and talented class with a lot of potential, include Janessa Avila, Jossie Hopkins, Peyton Dunn, Olivia Lowder and Emilia Trucks,” he said.