Prescott wrestling was under the radar at the start of the 2016-2017 season.
"I think me coming in with the first year with nothing but stats to go off of ... it wasn't the greatest," head coach Jordan Poirier said about his first year of taking over the varsity wrestling program.
But as the season progressed, so did the team's chemistry with their new coach.
"I thought that these kids related well to me, and they grew a lot throughout the season," Poirier said. "I thought that where we started at the beginning of the year and where we ended up was a huge improvement."
Most would agree with Poirier.
The Cardinals flipped the script on the 2016-2017 season by taking third at their regional meet, sending six wrestlers to sectionals where the team would claim a fourth-place finish, and concluding the year at the Kohl Center with two state qualifiers.
Those two state qualifiers, Ethan Tulip and Ty Sanford, are now senior co-captains and will be in charge of setting the tone for the upcoming varsity team, according to Poirier.
"Dylan and Matthew made the transition to me a lot easier for everybody else," Poirier said about last year's seniors. "Now it's about [Ethan and Ty] stepping in and kind of paving their own way with these kids. The senior leadership is going to set the tone."
It's clear that Tulip and Sanford have high expectations for themselves and their teammates.
"You can't just do nothing and expect to win," Tulip said. "You have to put in work to get results."
In the spring, Tulip wrestled with the River Falls' wrestling team, he lifted weights over the summer, and has set his focus on improving his cardio regimen during the fall.
Tulip picked up a state tournament win against Richland Center's Max Schmidt in the preliminary round of competition at the Kohl Center at the end of his junior year.
Even with a torn tendon in his foot.
But Tulip has been used to going up against adversity throughout his varsity career. The now senior wrestler has wrestled underweight for the majority of his time as a Cardinal wrestler.
"My freshman year I was 78 pounds, so I was giving up 30 pounds there," Tulip said. "I only got pinned four times my freshman year, so that just showed that I could hang with them even though I was 30 pounds under."
Tulip's tendon is healed, and he's ready to accomplish his personal and team goals.
"My goal was to qualify for state, but I wouldn't have been disappointed to even just get fourth at sectionals," Tulip said about his goals for last season. "For this year, I've opened up barriers so my goal is to break the takedown record for Prescott."
Tulip is aiming to claim Prescott's season takedown record. Alumnus Jake Filkins currently holds the record.
As far as team goals go, Tulip wants his team to improve their dual record from last year.
"I think that's reasonable, too," Tulip said. "We should be able to beat most of the teams we face."
Poirier is on the same page as Tulip.
"I don't think we'll surprise anybody this year," Poirier said. "I think people are going to expect that when we come in there we're going to be competing. We're not going to come in there and lay down. We're coming to wrestle."
The Cardinals return four of their six wrestlers that qualified for last year's sectional meet, and behind Tulip's and Sanford's leadership, a winning record is not out of the picture for this Prescott team.
Aside from winning, Poirier also has a more practical goal for his team.
"My goal for them is to win all of the duals, obviously, but it's more about competing in all of them," Poirier said. "If we go in and we lose by a point, but we did everything right and it just didn't go our way, that's what I want. That's where we're trying to get."
Much of the team's success will rely on Tulip and Sanford welcoming the team's five new wrestlers — four freshmen and one wrestler who hasn't participated in the sport since he was younger — and showing them what it takes to wrestle at the varsity level.
Tulip has been pleased with the amount of wrestlers who've shown up to the team's preseason captains' practices so far. Like most captains, Tulip and Sanford see these practices as a way to not only fine-tune their team's skills, but to also build relationships with their younger teammates.
"A lot of people see wrestling as just as individual sport, but there's a lot of teamwork that actually goes into it," Tulip said. "I like the teamwork that comes in it."
The Cardinals' underclassmen will be given their first chance to prove themselves at the team's first dual at home against Amery on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Poirier's role in training in newcomers is to get them comfortable with the varsity setting.
"I like to not throw anybody out to the wolves. It starts in the [wrestling] room," Poirier said. "It's just grooming them to that point and getting them to understand that what happens in the room, is what's going to happen out there. So if you're not practicing well in the room, then you're probably not going to perform well at the varsity level.
"And having captains like this," Poirier said in reference to his captains, "kids that have been successful, make it a lot easier to do that."