GIBSON CITY -- The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher wrestling team will go into the 2019-20 season in a mixed state of familiarity and unfamiliarity.
Head coach Josh Carter is entering his 10th year as a coach for the program.
"I still love what I do and enjoy being around the kids and working with them and seeing them continue to grow not only as wrestlers, but also as young men and women," Carter said.
Cole Maxey is returning for his senior year after qualifying for the IHSA Class 1A state meet in the 126-pound weight class. Payton Kean, another senior, was one match away from qualifying for state last year at the 182-pound class.
"Both of them were fall athletes as well, but they've put in some work over the summer doing some extra stuff," Carter said. "I'm excited for them. Both of them are poised to have a good senior season, and we just try to stress with them to control what they can control. There are a lot of things in life and in wrestling that you can't control, so they've got to do the best they can and let the results be what they will."
Cale Horsch returns for his junior year. He finished second in the 2018 1A state meet as a freshman in the 106-pound class. His sophomore season was cut short due to a broken hand, but he's back.
"He's got a good attitude about it. I know he was frustrated last year to have his season end with an injury like that, but he took it in stride and continued to support his teammates," Carter said. "He showed up for practices and came to meets and just did what he could do to be here. Even in practices with a broken hand, he was still getting on the mats and doing what he could just to try to make himself better. That's the kind of attitude that we're looking for."
Calen Ragle, a 20-match winner last year, returns for his senior season. Kaden Gream returns for his junior season after reaching the 25-win mark last year.
Braylen Kean and Tim Booth will each return for their sophomore seasons after competing in varsity meets at 160 and 170 pounds, respectively, last year as freshmen.
"That's tough to do, and they both competed really well," Carter said. "I feel like we've got a pretty good mix of veteran wrestlers and newcomers. I'm definitely looking forward to helping as much as we can both the experienced guys and the newcomers get some more growth as wrestlers."
The Falcons will start their season on Thursday, Dec. 5, at Bismarck with a triangular meet between GCMS/Fisher, Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin and Rantoul at 6 p.m.
After competing in the North/South Duals at Prairie Central at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, the Falcons will host a triangular meet against Dwight and Peotone at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10.
GCMS/Fisher will compete in the Plano Invite on Dec. 13-14 host Oakwood and St. Joseph-Ogden on Dec. 17 and travel to Braidwood to face Reed-Custer and Clifton Central on Dec. 19.
After competing in the Argenta-Oreana Invite on Jan. 4 and the Princeton Invitational on Jan. 10-11, the Falcons will compete in the Reed-Custer Invite on Jan. 17-18, instead of the tournament in Orion.
"We've changed up our schedule a little bit this year," Carter said. "We've got some new teams on the schedule."
GCMS/Fisher also added a home match against Mahomet-Seymour on Jan. 30 and a home triangular meet at Fisher against Toledo Cumberland and Westville on Jan. 23.
"Those will be good, just to kind of give us a different look this year, but everything else is pretty similar to what it's been in the past," Carter said. "It's going to be a challenge throughout the course of this season."
The Falcons are scheduled to compete in the IHSA Class 1A regionals on Feb. 8. With the 1A enrollment cutoff raised to 788, several teams that were in 2A will be dropping down to 1A, making the road from regionals to state more difficult for teams like GCMS/Fisher that were in 1A over the past several years.
"We're going to have some work to do to get prepared for the postseason," Carter said. "We're going to have our work cut out for us."