ESPN RISE takes a look at the teams to watch this month in this area:
Wrestling -- Whitfield
It seems simple -- after winning the Class 1 state
title last year, Whitfield brings back its top three
wrestlers and will roll to another championship this
season. If only it were that easy. "There are no guarantees,"
says Whitfield coach Charlie Sherertz. "We return
a lot this year, but we also lost some good ones. And
the teams we finished ahead of last year are stronger."
The Warriors will once again be top-heavy, with three
elite wrestlers doing much of the damage in team
meets. Junior Conor Hovis and seniors Ryan Mango
and Jason Ott each won individual titles last season,
and repeat performances will be necessary in order for
Whitfield to contend as a team. Repeating shouldn't be
difficult for Hovis because he's already done it. After
winning state titles his first two years (including the
championship at 125 pounds last year), Hovis is looking
for the three-peat. Mango and Ott put up matching
45-0 records last season as they stormed to state titles
at 119 and 145 pounds, respectively. They're being
recruited by Division I colleges, and together with
Hovis they are Whitfield's greatest strength. "Our strategy
this year is that we really have to go after it," says
Sherertz, explaining why his top three haven't settled
on weight classes. "We're gonna have to match our best
kids against their best kids. It's going to take a total
team effort for us to end up first on the medal stand."
Girls' Basketball -- Parkway South
The Patriots have their sights set on a district championship this season, and that's just for starters. After being
knocked out in the district finals last year by St. Joseph's, Parkway South returns a fantastic inside-outside duo in
senior forward Ebony Davis and senior point guard Arriana Walker. Davis put up 17.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per
game last season, while Walker dominated the backcourt by scoring 10 points, dishing out 5.4 assists and recording
5.6 steals per game.
Boys' Basketball -- Maplewood
A 28-4 record, the Class 3 championship and the No. 1 spot in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch small school rankings
made the 2007-08 season a very successful one for Maplewood, but the Blue Devils aren't satisfied. With
leading scorer Bryant Allen (25.1 ppg) returning for his senior season, Maplewood should never have to look
too far to find offense. The ESPN RISE All-Area first team selection has help in senior forward Les Williams and
junior guard Bryton Hobbs.
Girls' Swimming -- Parkway West
Led by senior Kim Steinhouse, the Longhorns are looking to make a splash at the state level this season.
Steinhouse was great last year as a junior, finishing sixth in the 100 free and seventh in the 50 free, and she
helped Parkway West finish fifth as a team. Sophomore Mary Beth Howard is also expected to make an impact
at states after finishing sixth in the 200 free last year and anchoring the fourth-place 400 free relay squad.
With Steinhouse and Howard, Parkway West should once again finish in the top five at states.
BREAK OUT TEAMS
BOYS' BASKETBALL – HAZELWOOD CENTRAL
Hawks should be one of area's deepest teams.
GIRLS' BASKETBALL – McCLUER NORTH
Senior sisters Terika and Tarah Adams (combined 27.4 ppg last year) power the Stars.
WRESTLING – COLLINSVILLE
Senior Ryan Robinson made it to Illinois state quarterfinals last year at 189.
GIRLS' SWIMMING – HANNIBAL
Talented sophomore core is led by Rebekah Land and JaLynn Gieseke.