The feel-good story of last year in Fairfield County high school sports was the Fairfield Warde wrestling team winning the FCIAC championship tournament.

It wasn't because the Mustangs didn't have a great team, or that Fairfield Warde didn't have some of the league's best wrestlers. But Danbury, who the Mustangs edged for the title, had won the championship an unprecedented 23-straight seasons.

So what will the Mustangs do for an encore?

Well, for starters, Fairfield Warde lost four of its five FCIAC weight class champions to graduation, so it will rebuild around a small senior class.

Head coach Jason Shaughnessy will have a roster of 55 wrestlers, one of the largest in the state. The freshman class alone, with 26 wrestlers, is bigger than a lot of schools' entire programs.

"We work hard with the (Fairfield PAL) youth program, and we have about 25 or 30 football players on the team," said Shaughnessy, who recruits athletes from his phys ed classes as well.

Shaughnessy is downplaying the team's chances as a repeat FCIAC champion, and figures Danbury, Trumbull, Greenwich and Stamford will all be in the running. His theory is that if every individual reaches his goal of being an FCIAC champion, reaches their potential and performs well at the tournament, then the chance of winning as a team is there.

But his wrestlers want to win another league championship, as well as a third straight CIAC Class L title.

"When we go out to wrestle, we have everything to lose and they have nothing to lose," said senior tri-captain Alex Delaney, who will wrestle at 171. "So we really have to step it up this year."

Tri-captain Michael Sullivan, the team's lone returning FCIAC champion at 160, says the drive to repeat as FCIAC is there, as the team's overall work-ethic has improved. No longer are wrestlers just showing up to practice, they're stepping up their game.

"We know what's at stake," added tri-captain Evan Fraser, who will wrestle at 130. "We captains are trying to get everyone motivated, getting everyone up and working hard with high intensity."

Shaughnessy described Sullivan as a very knowledgeable, talented wrestler who knows how to win close, competitive matches. His overtime win over John Smith, a defending FCIAC champion, in the league tournament's 160 championship match last season may have provided the points Warde needed to secure the title.

Delaney wrestled up at 171 last season, but is the right physical size this year to take on all challengers. And Fraser was a Class L runner-up the past two years, and will look to take home the gold this season.

As of now, the varsity lineup will also include freshman Chris Pecora at 103, and classmate Dylan Bender at 112. Pharoh Eaton is a 119-lb. wrestler, but will wrestle at 125.

Senior James Neamontis, who sat out last season, is back, and will wrestle at 135. Casey Stopa, a junior, is at 140, and classmate Kevin Kollar is at 145.

Three wrestlers -- senior Ben Philpott and juniors Joey Marx and James Heinzman -- are battling for the 189 spot. David Wolff, a junior, will wrestle at 215, and junior Mike Money will be the heavyweight.

The team has a hole to fill at 152 because sophomore Thomas Anania, who was the runner-up in Class L last season, will miss the campaign as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.