However, with a solid nucleus maturing and some promising newcomers, the prospects are better for the Owls this season.
"The guys we have are hard-nosed kids," remarked new head coach Gregg Woodring. "They're going to be out there for the duration."
Woodring is a former Missouri Valley College wrestler and assistant coach, who the last few years has been coaching the Slater baseball team. When the opportunity arose to get back into the mat room, he jumped -- and is bringing that Viking attitude with him.
"We want to be aggressive on our feet," Woodring described his approach. "If we can dictate the pace of a match and take people down, that's half the battle."
While Woodring sees the opportunity for immediate success, his strategic vision is long-term.
"We come in with a new focus to be prepared at the end," he explained. "The beginning of the season is tough, and so is getting our mental preparation where it needs to be and settling in for the long season."
Marshall has six starters back who should be ready to go to the next level. Unfortunately, two of them are in the same weight class: senior heavyweights Berry Benedick (16-18) and Raven White (15-23), who improved from one win the previous season.
"It's going to be a fight every week" to see who is entered, Woodring said -- Benedick getting the first nod after winning their rank-off. "They're going to be pushing each other all year long."
Senior Austin Stickels (182 pounds) had the Owls' second-best record -- behind two-time state qualifier Brandon Standley -- last year at 21-16, with 15 pins.
"The talent is there for him to make a good run," Woodring said. "With big goals in mind, he could be standing on the podium at the end."
Junior Canaan Heinzler (138) also had 20 wins, 15 by fall to tie for the team lead, and Woodring said "he has a good group to work with" in his weight range. "I'm going to be pushing him a lot because I know what he's capable of."
Juniors Tyler Eidson (195) and Tyler Morrison (132) have also made gains, and the Owls got a significant addition with the transfer of senior Nick Harper (160) from Park Hill in Kansas City -- where he was a Class 4 state qualifier with a 29-22 mark.
Junior Chris Stevenson (145) has added some muscle and sophomore Darin Martin (113) has recovered from injuries which hampered his rookie campaign. Junior T.J. Fox (170) returns to the circle after a one-year absence.
There are high hopes for freshman Aaron Sims (132), a two-time state finalist in youth wrestling. Freshman Austin Ballard and Dylan Bellamy are in a dogfight at 106 pounds, junior Steven Clardy and freshman Ramon Herrera could see action in the middle weights, junior Sam Overturf and sophomore William Hostetter -- who came in from Malta Bend -- are vying for a spot at 220 and freshman Noah Driskell is being groomed for the future at 285.
"At the beginning it's really hard" to fix a line-up "because we have all our weight plans out," Woodring said, noting rules which limit the amount of weight loss. "Once we get everybody where they need to be, we could be a tough team to compete with."
The ultimate goal, though, is to get through to the MSHSAA Championships -- which isn't easy in Marshall's district, which had the most state medalists in Class 2 last year.
"I think we can realistically push three to five into the state tournament," Woodring declared. "If we get everybody where they need to be, we could get seven."
That would match the Owls' entries from the early 2000s.
"I believe in high expectations for our guys," Woodring remarked.