This season may be the toughest challenge for Dakota wrestling to keep it's streak alive with a fifth straight 1A state championship.

The team lost a trio of two-time state champions in Alec Henze, Nate Olsen and Greg Krulas and three-time state medalist Jared Packer. The seniors won state dual titles all four years.

"It will be very hard to win a fifth straight championship, we lost the four big hammers," Dakota coach Pete Alber said. "It's very hard to make up for that quality of wrestlers, but I believe we have the talent to repeat again this year, but it is all up to our wrestlers this year to work very hard and believe it themselves."

The first part will be to make it to the dual state.

The regional uses an individual format for the team scores. Dakota is in the toughest regional with Lena-Winslow and Byron, who they just edged last season.

In the state championship match, the Indians beat Coal City 31-30. Dakota had clinched the win and forfeited the last two matches.

A rematch for the title is possible this season.

"I believe Lena will be the team to beat (at regional)," Alber said. "Coal City lost a fair amount of seniors also, but would not be surprised to see them in the finals this year."

The good news for Dakota is the cupboard is not empty. Returning is senior Andrew Wenger, brother of former three-time state champion Matt Wenger.

Andrew in his encore senior season is looking for what has been an elusive Indivudal state title. He was a runner-up the past two years and third as a freshman.

"Wenger, of course, is hungry for a championship, but he has not got to the hard work level that I would like to see yet," Alber said.

Key wrestlers will be freshman Evan Riggle, Alex Porter, Odell McPeek, Collin Barker, Tyler Besse, Cade Clayton and Maverick McPeek. Clint and Colt Oakes are the only two wrestlers coming over from the co-op with Orangeville.

Porter, a senior, wants to improve on his fifth-place finish at state. Junior Maverick McPeek qualified for state, but two close losses kept him from a state medal. He returns as one of the favorites to win his weight class (220-285).

Collin Barker was a state qualifier as a sophomore and, now as a senior, hopes to return.

At last year's regional, returning after placing in the group four were Wenger (170 champion), Alber second. Porter, Barker and Maverick McPeek third. Slayton and Jacob Blocker were fourth.

Dakota with a strong youth wrestling program has a IHSA 1A state record 41 iIndividual state champions.

They have been to the state dual nine times and have placed every time. Under Alber, the Indians have won five state titles and two third places.

State hardware also include a second in 1994 and fourth in 1989.

Dakota had six Individual state champions in 2015 and in 2014 Josh Alber finished as a four-time state champion and the only wrestler in Illinois history to never lose or tie a match.

Seven former Dakota wrestlers are now at the collegiate level. Alber (Northern Iowa), Carver James (Illinois), JJ Wolfe (Eastern Michigan), Tyler Peiper (South Dakota), Nate Olsen (Coe College), Greg Krulas and Printice Walls (University of Dubuque).

"I'm proud and hope we can continue the success." said Alber.

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