It's not been an unexpected season thus far, to say the least, for veteran Calhoun County head wrestling coach Mike Stump.
No, one isn't going to find the Red Devils ranked in the top 10 of the Class AA/A state wrestling poll anytime this winter. However, help is eventually going to be on the way.
For now, all coach Stump can do is work with the nine varsity wrestlers he has who still show up to work each day.
"We just try to keep looking for improvement," said the coach.
Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, the Red Devils will conduct the annual Calhoun County Invitational, which is expected to feature the likes of defending Little Kanawha Conference champion Clay County - ranked third in the state - as well as No. 5 Wirt County, No. 6 Greenbrier West and No. 8 Braxton County.
Of the Red Devils' nine grapplers only Levi Gordon - ranked No. 10 at 132 pounds - and David Overbay wrestled for coach Stump last year. Lone senior Seth Wease is currently ranked No. 9 at 152 pounds and freshman 113-pounder Chris Goad is rated eighth in the state.
"We are just so inexperienced," said Stump, who noted he has never had a year in his quarter century of coaching where he started out with such low numbers.
"I see improvement. The kids are still working hard. When you know going into a dual meet we don't have a chance as far as a team, they are still coming to practice and battling and that's all you can ask for as a coach. They show up and keep working."
A strange season to say the least for the Red Devils, who during a dual against Roane County back in December actually had just three contested matches out of the 14 weight classes.
"It was unreal," said Stump, whose squad's 12th place finish at state last year was its lowest since taking 18th back in 1995. "Who would've thought that a year or two ago between both programs.
"Wrestling throughout West Virginia is getting better. I know the numbers are down in a lot of schools, but there are still good wrestlers out there."
Luckily for Calhoun County, there are reinforcements on the way in the middle school program.
"I keep an eye on them every day. They practice right across the wall from us," Stump said of the middle school wrestlers, coached by Brian Ritchie. "Hopefully in two years we'll start to become competitive again. I think if they all come out we can be competitive next year.
"In recent years we've had a Cody Clark, Ben Laughlin and Jared Haught who could actually compete for a title (as a freshman). But you know, you're talking about three out of hundreds of kids who can do that.
"This middle school team reminds me a lot of Cody's and their eighth grade year, quite a few kids with talent. Making that adjustment to the next level will be our focus to see that it gets done because it's a tough one."
Contact Jay Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org