With only 15 grapplers on the roster as preseason unfolded in early December, Darien High School wrestling coach Joe Vano knew his team would have an uphill climb in matches this winter.

The Blue Wave, coming off a 16-7 campaign, is striving just to be competitive in each match this season, Vano said. The team will likely have to forfeit four weight divisions in each match because of lack of wrestlers in certain weight classes, Vano noted.

"It's going to be very challenging," Vano said. "We're going to keep it very simple. We're young and inexperienced."

The team has just two seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and a trio of freshmen.

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Two years ago, the Wave had 40 or so grapplers on the roster and last year had about 30.

"Wrestling's never been a sport that's supported in Darien. It's mostly a football and lacrosse town," Vano said. But just why the Wave is so low on numbers this year remains somewhat of a mystery to Vano.

The coach is striving for day to day improvement. The team members know they have their work cut out and are looking forward to making the most of it.

"It could be rewarding but it also, on the other hand, could be very frustrating," Vano said.

The coach knows losses will be unavoidable unless his team members can win their share of individual matches within each team competition to offset the forfeits. There are 14 weight classes, meaning his grapplers need to avoid losing another four or win a lot via pin to accumulate enough points to pull out some wins.

Tough teams in the FCIAC include the likes of Danbury, Fairfield Warde, Greenwich, Trumbull and Westhill. The conference's tough squads have full rosters and wrestlers battling teammates for starting spots.

"It's hard to compete when teams are that big," Vano said.

Still, the Wave grapplers are enthusiastic for the start of the campaign.

"These kids have been working hard. It should be exciting," Vano said.

"I'm excited for the beginning of the season to start -- having some matches," said Colton Appleby, senior captain and likely 138-pound division wrestler this winter.

"Team-wise it's more of a rebuilding year this year so we're going to try to get a lot of the young guys mat time on varsity," said Patrick Daigle, the other senior captain and likely 132-pound competitor.

Juniors Tyler Hill (160) and David Ziga (113) are other Wave wrestlers who bring experience back to the mats.

Daigle was sixth in the 126 division in the FCIAC championships last year. Among the key graduates was 160-pound FCIAC champion Max Kiplinger, who helped the Wave place 10th among 16 FCIAC schools in the finals. Darien was 14th in the Class L state championships last winter. Kiplinger placed third in the Class L meet.