ELM CREEK — Things are buzzing in Elm Creek.
With five returning starters, 12 lettermen in total, returning from last year’s team that gave the Buffaloes their first state tournament victory in 44 years, Elm Creek is alive with the anticipation of what will come this year.
"Expectations are high," said coach Tanner Cavenee. But "this group needs to remember what has gotten them there and follow what we have established in this program."
Elm Creek went 22-5 last year, including an undefeated run through the Fort Kearny Conference.
Trey Miner, a 6-foot junior guard, tops the list of returning players. Miner was first team, all-state after averaging 16.9 points per game.
Senior guard Karsten McCarter (5-10) and senior forward Gage Clabaugh (6-1) are three-year starters who also averaged double figures last year.
Senior guard Lane Gutzwiiller and junior forward Troy Brumels round out the list of returning starters.
Other returning lettermen are junior forward Hans Robbins, junior guard Brandon Nuhfer, junior forward Keaton Kenning, sophomore guard Nathan Gillming and sophomore forward Brady Spotanski.
"We have the chance to be a bit deeper team this year with some players improving over the summer and a talented freshman class," Cavenee said.
Elm Creek opens the season Thursday at home against Shelton. Further down the line, Elm Creek has added Minden to its schedule and the Buffaloes will take on Yutan in the Heartland Hoops Classic in mid-February.
Graduation left one big hole in the Elm Creek girls basketball team and the loss of Allison Bauer, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, will cause some restructuring, according to coach Mike Ford.
"This season is going to find a lot of kids being thrown into unfamiliar territory," Ford said. "We are going to be a work in progress. ... Kids will be asked to change roles slightly from a year ago and seeing how quickly they can adapt to those new roles will determine our success. I have a great group of kids that work hard and we will see if we can make that hard work turn into wins.
"Role identification will be key for this group and just making the basic and easy play," he said..
The Buffs return three starters from last year’s 19-5 team — 5-5 junior guard Whitney Bauer, 5-10 junior post player Ashley Brown and 5-10 junior post player Haley Stone.
Other returning letterwinners are senior Hannah Keim (5-3) and juniors Morgan Sindt (5-4), Reagan Meier (5-4), Abby Bauer (5-6), Maci McCarter (5-5) and Samantha Knapp (5-6).
Ford said he thinks the team will be solid defensively.
Two returning state qualifiers and a number of other veterans give the Elm Creek wrestling program reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season.
Juniors Koby Smith and Xavier Perez wrestled under the lights at the state tournament last season. Smith had a 41-win year while wrestling at 121 pounds and Perez went 36-12 at 138 pounds.
Other wrestlers back for this season are senior Chase Swartwood (195), juniors Travis Quintana (126), Bryton Walz (132) and Max Serrano (132) and sophomores Aaron Tavenner (113), Carson Gruntorad (120) and Gabe Trampe (145).