Wrestling teams that don't fill all of their weight classes often have it adversely impact their records.
That was the case with Tamaqua last season, when holes in the line-up contributed to its 5-16 mark.
"Last year we had three forfeits, and more at times with injuries," said Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe, who is entering his 11th season at the helm. "In eight of our losses, we were right in those matches, even with 3-4 forfeits."
This season, the Blue Raiders have 21 wrestlers on their varsity roster and should be able to field a full line-up.
WIth the return of eight letterwinners from last year, the Raiders have a good chance to reverse their fortunes.
"We have some newcomers, some experienced wrestlers and some kids who took a year off and came back," noted McCabe. "Having the extra people helps. It gives you the opportunity to bump kids around.
"We now have kids who can fill in where needed, and that makes it a little easier to get wins."
A pair of two-time State qualifiers, seniors Garth Lakitsky and Kolby Mashack, lead the returnees.
Lakitsky, THE TIMES NEWS Wrestler of the Year last season, racked up a record of 38-5 at 189 pounds, placing fourth in the state in Class AA. He is a two-time defending Schuylkill League champion and was a District 11 and Southeast Regional runner-up. Lakitsky will wrestle at 215 pounds this season.
Kolby Mashack was 35-7 at 130-135 pounds a year ago. He was a Schuylkill League runner-up, placing fourth at Districts and third at Regionals. He has 93 career wins and is shooting for Andy Breiner's school record of 122 victories. Kolby will wrestle at Bucknell University next year.
"We are looking at both of them to be the leaders," said McCabe. "They'll win a busload of matches for us. What we are expecting is that the .500 wrestlers from last year will get more wins for us, too."
At 103, the Raiders have freshman Colin Mashack, who was a junior high District silver medalist last year. Another freshman, Derek Hill, is pencilled in at 112.
Junior Kyle Boyer (19-19 last year) is back at 119-125, with junior Derek Drum in reserve. Junior Alex Vincent, a returnee from two years ago, is at 130.
Another returnee from two years ago, junior Nick Toth, is at 135. Kolby Mashack and senior Philip Christman, back after a one-year absence, are at 140.
At 145-152 are two letterwinners, juniors Brandan Silkowski (18-17) and Evan Mashack (who had 9 wins). Two veterans will also fill in it 160: seniors Travis Veronsky (16-18) and Robert Craigle.
Senior Matt Edmonds, who was 19-12 last year, and sophomore Zack Kabana will fill in at 171 and 189. Lakitsky is at 215, with freshman Brandon Vigo at heavyweight, replacing the graduated Dustin Wentz.
New to the roster this season are junior Jon Killaly (152) and sophs Austin Smulligan (112), Zack Beller (145), Randy Gilson (145) and Eric Weiss (189).
McCabe feels the Raiders can be contenders in Schuylkill League Division I and return to the District 11 Duals after a two-year absence. "You can't beat the work ethic our seniors have, and it rubs off on the other kids," he added.