Even without one of his most-experienced performers, Fairfield Ludlowe High School coach Nick Garoffolo feels his wrestling team will continue the program's recent upward trend.

The Falcons placed fifth at FCIACs a year ago, a significant improvement from the season prior. Ludlowe has more numbers and more experience, thanks to the Fairfield's PAL program.

"I'm excited," Garoffolo said. "I think we have a decent team coming back."

Lost, for at least the season's first three months, is junior captain Eric Kirchgasser. Kirchgasser, a third-year wrestler who reached the State Open a year ago at 113, injured his knee in the summer and may miss the season.

Still, junior captain Ben Batulanon-- who also qualified for the State Open a year ago-- returns as one of the Falcons' top wrestlers. Batulanon, who wrestled at 106 last year, will go at 120.

Batulanon leads a strong junior class. Heavyweight Jacob Jessen and Austin Reid at 138 both will start for Ludlowe.

Ben Brzoski, the Falcons' lone senior captain, wrestled at 170 last year, but Garoffolo says he'll move to 182. Senior Joe Sokolski will prepare for the 170-class role.

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Fellow seniors Matt Garoffolo (220), Kyle Decruccio (132) and Peter Clark (145) are experienced and will give the Falcons stability at their respective weight classes.

"The kids we have are doing great," Garoffolo said. "About 20 of them are very experienced and we'll have no trouble filling every weight class."

Sophomore George Wales expects to take over for Batulanon at 106. Alex Sullivan placed fifth in the FCIAC at 152, and four freshmen-- Chase Lind, Bobby Clark, Lee Stenild-Johansen and Marcus Sherod-- will see time as well.

The single-season school record for wins is 20, and breaking that mark is one of Garoffolo's aims. He still has larger goals too.

"I'd like to move into the top-three in the FCIAC," he said. "Greenwich, Danbury, Trumbull and Warde are great programs. To break in among those four teams would be a great accomplishment."

ppickens@bcnnew.com; twitter.com/Pat_Pickens