A few years ago, when the idea of combining the Hayfield and Blooming Prairie wrestling programs hatched, Chad Gimbel was ecstatic.
"We had talked about it for maybe two or three years, and I just thought it was a great opportunity," said Gimbel, who had been the wrestling coach at Blooming Prairie at the time. "There was zero resistance; I didn't hear a single negative word about the idea."
While the "adults" were all in, the kids were somewhat skeptical.
"There were a few kids who were just wondering what we were going to get out of it, they looked at (Blooming Prairie) like maybe they weren't that good," said Morgen Moreno, who's a senior at Hayfield High School. "But I'd say that was only a few kids, and they quickly realized it was going to be an awesome thing."
For Blooming Prairie senior Ethan Arett, the merger was a no-brainer from Day 1.
"I was ecstatic," Arett said. "I have always wanted to feel what it would be like to be on a real team, with a full roster that can go out and compete and win duals. Of course, there were some skeptics at first, some kids who maybe were worried they'd lose a varsity spot. That went away quickly, though."
After all the talking, the schools finally agreed to merge into one program. Next step — finding a new name and identity.
"We (solicited) ideas and narrowed it down to a few and then we had both schools vote," Gimbel said.
The winner? The Westfield Razorbacks.
The catchy name was nice, but what Gimbel saw when he entered the wrestling room for the first time was even better.
The rosters from Blooming Prairie and Hayfield complemented each other beautifully. And area teams noticed quickly. Westfield went an impressive 15-5 in its inaugural season and advanced to the Section Two, Class A semifinals. The Razorbacks suffered a loss to Kenyon-Wanamingo in the semifinals, and the Knights went on to finish fifth at state, with their lone loss at state coming to eventual champion Zumbrota-Mazeppa.
The immediate success has the Razorbacks dreaming even bigger this season. And rightfully so.
Westfield returns a loaded lineup, and it also has received some breaks. Section 2A favorite Kenyon-Wanamingo is dealing with injuries, including three potentially season-ending injuries to starters. Also, No. 8-ranked Blue Earth Area likely was second in line in Section 2A, but the Bucs are dealing with potential suspensions after an alleged assault involving three of their wrestlers.
Even without those circumstances, the state team tournament has been the goal for these Razorbacks since last February.
"Absolutely (it's the goal) ... honestly, I don't even care if I make state as an individual, it's all about getting there as a team," Moreno said.
If the Razorbacks are going to pull that off, they'll lean heavily on standouts like Arett and Moreno — for both on-the-mat results and in-the-room leadership.
Arett is back for his senior season after a stellar effort in 2016-17. He advanced to state at 106 pounds, but he was one-and-done at Xcel Energy Center last March. That's been his primary motivation all offseason.
"It was a punch in the mouth for sure, but it helped push me for lifting weights and wrestling in the offseason," Arett said. "I just tried to get better every day; I want to get back to state and possibly win the thing."
That seems like a realistic goal for Arett, who's opened the season ranked No. 1 in Class A at 113.
"I was not expecting that; I thought it was cool at first, and then I realized it means I need to work that much harder," said Arett, who went 27-6 last season. "People will be making me their target, and I need to be up for that challenge."
Moreno comes from a wrestling family; two of his older brothers had very successful wrestling careers at Hayfield. He also has a younger brother who's currently in the youth program.
Like Arett, Moreno was a state entrant a year ago. But also like Arett, he was one-and-done.
Moreno entered the wrestling room this November fresh and motivated. That's partially due to not cutting as much weight. Moreno will start the year at 220 pounds and likely weigh in at both 195 and 220 to help the team throughout the season."
"I just feel ready to go this year," he said. "Last year I was cutting a lot, and I was sluggish at times, not wanting to do the extra work. Now, I'm not cutting, and I feel like it makes a big difference.
"I see everyone doing that extra work this year. Everyone is motivated. We're all pushing each other. There's just a great attitude all around this year."
Moreno and Arett aren't the only standouts in the Westfield practice room, which is at Hayfield High School. Sophomore phenom Colton Krell also returns, as does standout senior Mitchell Oswald. Krell placed fourth at state last March at 160, and Oswald placed third after going 29-4. Krell is ranked No. 2 at 160, while Oswald is No. 3 at heavyweight.
"We've got some outstanding leaders," Gimbel said. "We know who our horses are and we know they'll do well. But those new kids stepping into varsity roles for the first time, that's where our success will be determined.
"This co-op has been a great thing so far, great for both schools and communities. I think it'll just keep getting better and better. It's (an) exciting time."