Less than a decade ago, the Archbishop Spalding coach Mike Laidley had just 12 young men on his wrestling roster.  Fast-forward to present day and he is preparing to lead his team into the 2010-2011 season with their first ever preseason No. 1 ranking.

“I am excited and proud that we received the preseason ranking we did, but we know it doesn’t mean anything,” Laidley said.  “It is just people’s expectations of us, and sometimes getting that preseason No. 1 makes kids just think they belong there and don’t work hard.  I don’t think our kids are like that.”

Laidley won’t have to worry about his wrestlers not taking the season seriously, packing the Spalding wrestling room with some of the MIAA’s best talent.

Going nearly undefeated in 2009-2010, Charlie Lynch was within striking distance of a National Prep title before suffering two one-point losses to end his season, repeating as an MIAA and MIS champion.

“Lynch, bar none, is the hardest worker I have day-in and day-out,” Laidley said.  “Kids want to drill with him, and they know they are going to get a workout.”

Other top returning wrestlers to the Cavalier lineup include the highly accomplished Will Switzer, a 43-9 state runner-up and National Prep All-America, MIAA and MIS runner-up and 100-win Kvante Smith, also a National Prep All-American, and the highly accomplished Cole Gallagher.

“Will wrestled for Cary Kolat for three to four years, and he is a nasty wrestler,” Laidley said.  “He is an aggressive, in your face wrestler, the kind of style we like here at Spalding.

“These juniors and seniors are doing a good job brining these younger guys along.”

Of those younger guys, Logan Breitenbach will be piercing the Cavs’ lineup around 125, using his year round dedication to the sport to deveople a promising high school career.

“Logan came from Chesapeake, and he probably wrestled more than 100 matches year-round.” Laidely said.  “He is the kind of kid that goes to Tulsa, Okla., and travels the county looking for the best competition.  

“We are starting to open eyes down here, and people see there is somewhere else to go besides Mount St. Joe and McDonogh.

“We have a good room, good, young coaches, and the kids have really bought into the program.  Most of these kids wrestle year round and love this sport, and it shows.  When they go to compete, they want to be the best out there.

switzerIt is a long way from Laidely’s first season with Spalding, where the Cavs went winless as a B Conference team and decided they had to make the jump to the A Conference to improve.

“We were a B Conference school and didn’t have a lot of kids interested in wrestling, so it was kind of a rude awakening,” Laidely said.  “For years, kids were passing us by to go to Curley, St. Joe and McDonogh because of the wrestling heritage, and knew we had to go to the A Conference because we already competed with these teams at the end of the season.  Making that jump was one of the best things we could have done.”

The jump proved to be a great success, and the growth of Spalding’s sports program and the beautiful facilities has been unstoppable.

So what does Laidley think about the giant target on the team’s back?  “It’s scary.”

“Do I think we deserve it?” he asked, “I think we are there in the top three of the MIAA, and we don’t have a lot of depth, but I am proud we are getting the recognition.  

“It will be a challenge.  We have never been here before and we will see how we respond.  The top spot is designated at the end of the year, not in a preseason ranking.”