This year's wrestling team is turning into the perfect storm.
"This is what we've been waiting for. To have a team that's four or five strong in every class," coach Ken Robbins said. "That's what a program needs to become formidable."
The South Tahoe team is 20 wrestlers deep, and boasts a solid group of underclassmen already collecting wins at the varsity level. The team's biggest weapon, however, are the three returning seniors, all with promising chances to compete in state.
Leading the seniors is two-time state medalist Kalen Ippolito.
The Vikings have anticipated Ippolito's senior year since his third-place finish at state as a sophomore. He followed it up with a fourth-place finish as a junior.
If Ippolito's recent match against the reigning California state champion is any indicator, it was worth the wait.
"I've sat in a lot of chairs and watched a lot of matches, and that was one of the best wrestled matches I've seen in quite some time," Robbins said. "We're still looking to put our first guy on top of the podium, and he could be our guy."
Ippolito has a big task at hand this weekend. He will be crucial for the Vikings as they take on the defending state champions, Lowry.
"This is going to be a big mile marker for him," Robbins said. "He's worked incredibly hard to get ready for it so at the end of Saturday we'll know exactly where we stand against those guys."
Conner Hearn is another formidable returning senior for the Vikings.
"He's kind of always been under the radar wrestling behind very good people through his career," Robbins said. "He's always had to wrestle guys bigger than him."
Finally, Hearn is the bigger guy and it's already paying off. He's lost just one match this year, and will be another key piece in the Lowry tournament this weekend.
The final piece will be senior Rafael Gutierrez, with almost 10 years of wrestling experience behind him.
"He's had some bumps in the road wrestling at a bigger class, but we have a feeling this weekend is going to be a turning point for him," Robbins said.
The Vikings' lone female wrestler Haley Crowson is sidelined with a broken rib. The returning sophomore was off to a nice start, with one win by pin before the injury. A setback, but Crowson is still at practice every day riding the bike.
Robbins said they expect her to be healed and healthy for the Nevada state tournament and the the California girl's circuit later this season.
"She is on her way for sure. She's tough. I don't like to wrestle her most days," Robbins said.
Juniors Robert Hook and Michael Crandall add some experienced depth. Both wrestlers qualified for state as sophomores last year. Both have also shown flashes of absolute greatness this year, Robbins said.
The Vikings will take five freshmen with them to Lowry this weekend. Among the five are standouts Boe Griffis and Garrett Brewer, who are both over .500
"They've both had tremendous starts as varsity wrestlers. Just to make the varsity team as a freshman is quite an accomplishment, and they've taken that and owned it," Robbins said. "Varsity is purely dependant on skill level. You're either the best at your weight or you're not. They won those spots."
First-year seniors Danny Loyola and Eduardo Lara also turned in good starts, and new wrestlers Leo Tocchini and Jose Rodriquez both ring in at just under .500 after a month of first-time matches.
"Honestly, coming into this year we didn't know what we were going to have with that many young guys, but we've had a great deal of success early," Robbins said. "Everybody has bought into the program and worked incredibly hard. They make the walls of that little room at the middle school drip sweat every day."
The Vikings will get a chance to put all that hard work to use this weekend in Lowry. It's their biggest test yet. Teams from 22 schools and surrounding states will meet up Friday and Saturday to see where everyone stands one month in.
"It's historically one of the toughest tournaments in Nevada, and we're looking for some exciting things especially from our older kids," Robbins said. "It's just a great way for guys to know where they're at after the first month of the season. By the end of that tournament you see what you need to do to get ready for the next year."
Returners Patrick Stimac, Addison Day and Miguel Leon, and newcomers Jose Rodriguez, Blair Binns, Griffin Hobson, Joseph Messina, Jacob Sorenson, Michael Valney, and Miracle Williams fill out the Vikings' roster.