The Pleasant Valley wrestling team enters the 2010-11 season having lost seven seniors, including three 30-win mat men and the program's all-time wins leader, to graduation.
Instead of taking a year to rebuild the program, head coach Mark Getz believes his team can be competitive immediately. He doesn't want this group to use is youth as an excuse.
"We are young, but I don't look at it as an excuse," said Getz. "Last year we got a lot of the young kids in some varsity matches and got them some experience. That's an important thing to do. This year, I told the kids that I don't want to call it a rebuilding year. I want to make it a statement year.
"Yes we are young, but I still want to go out there and beat teams. I want our opposition to be surprised and realize that almost all of us are going to be back next year."
Getz is looking for four wrestlers in particular to step up as leaders. Those four are juniors Alex Yanovich, Ernie Klingel and Mike Dahlstrom, along with sophomore Sean Bianco. All four won at least 20 matches last year.
Klingel went 28-143 at 112. Yanovich was close behind at 27-13 while operating between 125 and 140. Bianco (103) finished 20-13. All three were regional qualifiers.
Dahlstrom went 25-9 at 119. He missed qualifying for regionals by one place, as he finished seventh at districts.
Over the past few years Pleasant Valley has been extremely strong in the lightweights, but has struggled in the heavyweights. According to Getz, the Bears are a little more balanced this time around.
"I actually feel more balanced this year as compared to other years," Getz said. "In the lower weights I think we are still pretty solid. We will have Kenny Yanovich coming up as a freshman. He was a junior high district champ last year. After him we will have Sean (Bianco) and then get into the meat of our order from there.
"Where we are probably a little inexperienced is between 145 and 171. But once again, we will finish up with Hunter Diehl who has varsity experience. Mike Benner and Dominick Ammirato are strong as well. These kids have been working out. We just need to get them some experience."
Diehl went 10-18 at 215 as a freshman and is the only heavyweight with any major experience. Cameron Kroemelbein (189-215, 18-14) and Ryan Gouger (285, 8-16) have graduated and Richard Hardgrove was a mere 1-2 at 215 last season.
Still, Getz believes Benner and Ammirato are tough and should be alright after wrestling well at the junior high level as freshmen.
Albert Linares, a receiver on the football team, is also out for the team. He wrestled previously but didn't come out for the team the last few seasons. He should see time at the light-to-middle weights.
After winning six straight MVC titles, the Bears have lost the last two to Stroudsburg. Getz believes it could be a three-team race this season.
"The team I am really looking at is East Stroudsburg South," admitted Getz. "They are senior-loaded this year. They have some kids with experience and right now I think they are the team to beat. We have them our second match of the year, so I think that will show us where we are at.
"Both Stroudsburg and us took a lot of hits by losing seniors. But once again it is still going to be a big rivalry. It could still be the championship match at the end of the year."