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Warde wrestling preview

Each year Fairfield Warde wrestling coach Jason Shaughnessy puts a group out on the mats that can challenge for a state championship and be counted as one of the elite in the FCIAC. The 2013-14 season should contain no surprises for the Mustangs staying in that class.

The Mustangs were runners up in the Class L championships and finished fifth in the State Open after winning the FCIAC East last winter, for an eighth straight year, with an 8-1 record. Overall, the Mustangs were a stellar 20-2. Shaughnessy begins his 17th year with Warde, and Fairfield High School, and brings in a career dual-meet record of 297-77, so a milestone victory (300) is within reach. Under Shaughnessy, the Mustangs won Class L in 2006, 2009 and 2010.

Wrestlers in four weight classes need to be replaced, but five of the returning Mustangs won Class L championships or were runners-up. The roster features 65 wrestlers.

Senior Dylan Bender, at 145 pounds, is the captain. He was 40-7 a year ago, placing sixth at the State Open after losing the Class L final at 138 pounds. Junior Dan Ebert (132 pounds) went 33-7 last season, finishing sixth at the State Open and runner-up in Class L at 120 pounds. Sophomore Charlie Kane (126) was 38-2 last year and won Class L at 126 pounds. Junior Philip Neamonitis (152) compiled an 18-7 record a year ago and placed second in Class L at 145 pounds. Senior Ahmed Hourani (heavyweight) won Class L, finished third at the State Open and was runner-up at the New England Championships at heavyweight (285-plus).

"They keys for us will be peaking at the right time and staying healthy," Shaughnessy said. "Our strength is typically our depth and our team conditioning. We focus on a strong work ethic to be better prepared than our opponent."

The season begins next Wednesday at home against Greenwich. The Mustangs will participate in three tournaments, including the Warde Invitational on Jan. 4, 2014, and visit Fairfield Ludlowe -- second in the FCIAC East a year ago -- on Feb. 11 at 5 p.m.