If the Oak Harbor High School wrestling team wants to win the Wesco North 3A dual-meet title, it will have to battle through one of the toughest conferences in the state.
In the Washington Wrestling Report preseason state rankings, four of the five Wesco North teams sit in the top 20: Stanwood 12, Oak Harbor 14, Everett 15 and Marysville-Pilchuck 17.
The Wildcats have the firepower to compete, returning 19 letter winners, including five state participants.
On the top of the list is senior co-captain Cody Fakkema (126 pounds), who was all-Wesco and all-Regional on the way to third at the state meet.
His fellow senior co-captain Joshua Crebbin (152) was also all-Wesco and is a two-time state participant.
Sophomore Jeremy Vester (106), junior Jahleel Vester (120) and sophomore Mark Johnston (138) are the other state-tournament veterans. Jahleel Vester placed eighth at state in 2011.
In the Washington Wrestling Report preseason rankings of individual weight classes, Fakkema is second, Jahleel Vester fourth, Johnston seventh, Jeremy Vester eighth and Crebbin ninth.
Ray Quinday (220) was all-Wesco in 2011-12 and Jackson Constant (285) a state alternate.
Other returning lettermen among the boys are seniors Noel Cheeseboro (145), Courtney Shavers (152), Jeremy Alonzo (195) and Terry Joll (220/275); juniors Kekai Tarrant (152), Nathanael Stanford (145) and Jacob Dugin (220); and sophomores Carl Meders (195/220) and Tyler Adamson (285).
Three girls who lettered last winter also return: seniors Desiree Dillaman (119) and team captain Kylene Ayer (104) and junior Tricia Desquitado (118/124).
Ayer was the sub-regional champion last winter. Returnees senior Aimee Oliver (155) and sophomore Zaiha Sams (124) will add depth.
Key newcomer among the boys, according to coach Mike Crebbin, is senior Jacob Fitzgerald (138/145).
Assistant coach Larry Falcon, who heads the girls program, said top newcomers are juniors Nina Manning (130), Taylor Tungate (190) and Olivia Hunt (145); sophomore Alexia Mobley (130) and freshman Rheana Huiet (124).
The girls can wrestling with the boys in dual meets but split off to their own post-season meets.
Falcon said, "The wrestlers have set personal goals ranging from placing at sub-regional to wrestling in the Dome (state). I expect our team to improve their finish at the post-season tournaments."
Coach Crebbin said his goals are for the Wildcats to place first in the Wesco North duals and first in the District 1 tournament.
The team's strength, Crebbin said, are experience and depth in the middle and upper weights. Its weaknesses are lack of experience and depth in the three lower weights. He is also concerned about several wrestlers working their way back from injuries.
Oak Harbor debuts with a nonleague home match with Arlington at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, Nov. 29). The Eagles are ranked 19th in the Washington Wrestling Report preseason 4A poll.