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High school wrestling in Europe for 2004-2005 is a case of the power programs getting more powerful.

Division I champion Ramstein, for example, returns no fewer than five European placers for the new season, which begins Saturday at four sites. To supplement those wrestlers, Royals coach Dave Izzo adds a pair of Far East placers, 130-pound third-place finisher Chris Maxey and 215-pound champion Cole Maxey, to his newest squad.

However, Izzo, who’ll get another season from 140-pound European champion Karl Saucier and European runners-up Noah Sheppard and Jose Figueroa, figures he’ll need whatever points the Maxeys can provide to prevail again.

“This should be a great year for competition at the Division I level,” Izzo said, citing 2004 runner-up Heidelberg, Wiesbaden and Würzburg as the power programs that will challenge Ramstein.

Izzo thinks Würzburg will be strong again in spite of a Wolfpack regime change. Duane Werner, who staged the annual Wolfpack Holiday tournament, promoted summer wrestling camps in Poland and Germany and breathed constant energy into the Würzburg program, accepted an administrative job in the school system. He was replaced by long-time assistant Steve Kennedy.

Kennedy, a former Army wrestler, said he felt a bit of trepidation over trying to fill Werner’s shoes.

“It’s like a guy who’s never played basketball being asked to take Larry Bird’s place,” Kennedy said. “Duane runs a great team, and he’s the go-to guy whenever anyone has a question about wrestling.”

Kennedy is ably backed by fellow Army wrestling veteran Jeff Pellaton, U.S. Army Europe’s chief referee, and adds another Painter brother, 140-pound freshman Brian, to defending European 125-pound champ Jesse and his twin brother, Jonathan.

Heidelberg will be led by senior Andrew Zachar, the European champ at 152 last year. A fourth-year performer for the Lions, Zachar is expecting fellow four-year Lion Elliott Boltz, third at 160 last season, to join him at the top.

Steve Jewell takes the wrestling reins at Wiesbaden this season and welcomes back Matt Alexander, third at 152, to his powerful squad.

In Division II, defending champion Bitburg, under coach Jeff Watts, will get plenty of scoring from European runners-up Devon Gardner at 140 and Daniel Brunal at 112.

The Barons also return European placers in Anthony Messina, David Villanova and Shawn Reynaud for the new season.

Fredo Ontiveros’ D-3 champion London Central Bobcats will build around defending European 112 champ Johnathan Scott, Division III 103 champion Jake Russell, European placer Jesse Tate and D-3 runner-up Matt Kessler.

The Bobcats will be challenged again by Gary Feletar’s Ansbach Cougars, led by 215-pound European runner-up Mike Ewing, the DODDS-Europe male athlete of the year.

Other D-3 wrestlers of note include Greg Vogt of Aviano, third in Europe at 112 last season, and new teammate J.B. Bender, a Virginia state finalist last season; Gary King of Vicenza, who placed fifth in Europe after an 18-0 regular-season campaign; and European qualifiers Daniel Herring and Adam Worrell of Bamberg.

All will have definitive chances to find out where they stand in a pair of early-season all-comers meets Dec. 18 at Würzburg and Ramstein.

Middle school and high school wrestlers are invited to the Wolfpack Holiday Classic in Würzburg. Wolfpack coach Kennedy can provide entry information at DSN 350-6199 or 350-7299, at civilian phone number (49) (0)160-257-8182. His e-mail is Steve_Kennedy@eu.odedodea.edu.

The Ramstein meet is for high school grapplers only. Izzo can provide information at DSN 480-6951 or via e-mail at David_Izzo@eu.odedodea.edu.

The 2004-05 season begins wrapping up with regional qualifying meets at Aviano, Ramstein, Giessen, Lakenheath and a site to be determined. Top regional performers then advance to the European championships Feb. 18-19 in Wiesbaden.

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