In order to be the best, you go out and you play the best. And that's just what Warde wrestling coach Jason Shaughnessy is doing.

"We have one of the strongest schedules in the state with nine of the top 10 teams in last year's final state poll on our schedule, as well as two other top five New England teams." wrote Shaughnessy is his preseason prospectus to the Citizen. "That demanding schedule will push us."

Which is exactly what the Mustangs want. Playing the best elevates your own game and Warde has been right near the top of the high school wrestling scene in recent years. Last season, the Mustangs went 20-3 and won the FCIAC Eastern Division -- the ninth straight FCIAC East title for Warde -- while placing second in the Class L tournament and third at the State Open meet.

So Shaughnessy went out and scheduled Cumberland High School in Rhode Island and New York power John Jay High to augment an already tough 2014-15 slate.

Last year, Warde was led by heavyweight Ahmed Hourani, who went 39-0 and won the Class L and State Open titles at 285 pounds. And while Hourani has graduated, Shaughnessy still has plenty of weapons at his disposal this season, starting with sophomore Tim Kane, who went 32-2 and finished second in the State Open meet in the 113-pound class.

Other returnees include: junior Jack Price, who wrestled at 106 pounds last year and was sixth in the Class L meet, senior Aaron Beinstein, who was fourth in the Class L meet (132 pounds), senior Dan Ebert, who won the Class L meet (126 pounds), placed third in the State Open meet and fourth in the New England Championships and junior Charlie Kane, who won the 2013 Class L meet but missed last season with an injury.

"We have numbers and depth. We have a strong group of returnees who will look to compete at a high level," Shaughnessy wrote. "Staying healthy and peaking at the right time is always the key to success."

That depth includes some 65 wrestlers, numbers that Shaughnessy says will allow him to have varsity-caliber backups at several weight classes.

"We have to work to get better one practice at a time," Shaughnessy said. "Our goal is to train and be better prepared than our opponents and peak with it counts in February and March."

LUDLOWE

The Falcons are coming off their best season in school history and are looking to do even better this season. Ludlowe went 22-3 in meet competition, placed fourth in the FCIAC tournament, sixth in the Class L meet and 15th in the State Open.

"We have been steadily improving for the past few years," Ludlowe head coach Nick Garoffolo wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. "This year we look for another record-breaking year and move into the top 10 teams at the state open this year."

The Falcons could achieve that goal if they continue to get outstanding performances from such returning wrestlers as quad -captains senior George Wales, who wrestled at 106 pounds last season, went 34-4 and placed sixth in the State Open meet, junior Marcus Sherrod, who wrestled at 126 pound and placed fourth in the Class L meet, junior Chase Lind, who wrestled at 145 pounds and took fifth in the Class L meet and junior Austin Sherman.

In addition, Garoffolo returns junior Bobby Clark, who wrestled at 132 pounds and placed fifth in the Class L meet.

"We return four state place winners, that's the highest number of state wrestlers that we've ever returned," wrote Garoffolo. "We are hoping for an even better year this year. We return seven starters and have some very good JV wrestlers that will fill the lineup and we will cover every weight with a full JV back-up team."

And while Garoffolo will debut four new wrestlers at weights this season, he's not worried about any lack of experience.

"They're all good athletes," he said. "They will do well."

PREP

For the Jesuits, the key this season is how quickly coach Corey Dennis can turn his inexperienced squad into a lean, mean wrestling machine. Prep lost five starters from last year's squad that went 3-6 in the Southern Connecticut Conference and finished 19th in the Class LL meet and replacing them will be paramount for success.

"We will be counting on some young wrestlers to step up and contribute at key weight classes," Dennis wrote in his prospectus to the Citizen. "For Prep to be successful this season, we will need some of our younger wrestlers to step up and become consistent contributors at the varsity level."

Dennis does have a solid core of wrestlers returning, however, led by captains Jack Bosken (152 pounds) and Michael Russo (120 pounds).

In addition, Kevin Zentner, who wrestled at 106 pounds last season and placed 6th in the Class LL meet, Kasim Kahn (113 pounds) and Orlando Sanchez also return for Prep.

"Our weakness rests to a certain degree with inexperience," Dennis wrote. "While many wrestlers on the team have been wrestling for years, some of the younger and inexperienced wrestlers will be called upon to help the team throughout the season. Our strength will be in our desire to succeed. Each wrestler, regardless of skill level, will give all of their effort to help one another succeed."

NOTRE DAME

Steve Fulco has the daunting task of starting a brand new wrestling program at Notre Dame-Fairfield. Captain Dan Mendez and Bill Kelly, who wrestled last season at Trumbull, will lead the Lancers in their inaugural season.

"We are building the program from scratch," said Fulco, who praised athletic director Rob Bleggi for creating the program. "We should be able to fill seven to eight weight classes with an emphasis on the upper weights."

Fulso said that his 182 to 285 classes "should shock the SWC and the state," but of course, having to stay healthy was paramount.

"We are looking forward to a successful first year at Notre Dame," Fulco said. "My coaching staff and I are motivated and up to the challenge of building this program into a powerhouse."