It is hard to overlook the name Mashack in the Tamaqua line-up this season.
The Blue Raiders feature three Mashack brothers, Kolby, Evan and Colin, and they have made their presence felt, combining for 51 wins to date.
Tamaqua is off to a 8-4 start, already surpassing its five-win total of last year, and the performance of the Mashacks has played a major role in that resurgence.
The Mashacks are part of a Tamaqua wrestling legacy, starting with their father, Jon, a two-time PIAA State qualifer (1985 and 1986) who is currently a volunteer assistant coach with the Raiders.
Jon Mashack was Tamaqua's elementary wrestling coach as his sons came up through the ranks.
"I get one year to enjoy it," said Jon of the thrill of having all three of his sons on the varsity at the same time. "I coached the knee-high program when they were young. They played football and baseball, too. I asked them to pick a sport, and all three migrated to wrestling."
"Our dad started us with wrestling in Kindergarten," recalled Kolby, now a senior. "He's worked with us ever since, teaching us techniques, taking us to tournaments, and once we got to high school, he would send us to camps to learn more moves."
The Mashacks even set up their own wrestling room in the family garage in order to train at home.
"Their work ethic shows what can happen," remarked Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe. "They practice hard, and they wrestle year round. They love wrestling, and they want to learn. Those are all ingredients in their success."
The brothers have learned their lessons well. In last week's 46-22 Schuylkill League victory at Pine Grove, all three registered falls. "They made me very proud," said their father.
Kolby is the eldest of the siblings and is undefeated at 20-0 at 140 pounds. A Bucknell University recruit, he picked up his 100th career win during a tournament at Mount Carmel and has a career record of 113-31. He is closing in on the school's record for wrestling victories (122, held by Andy Breiner) and is working toward his third straight trip to the State Meet.
"Getting my 100th win was one of my goals, and now that is accomplished, that makes me feel good," said Kolby. "If I can make it back to States, I have a chance to beat the school record."
"Kolby knows he has work to do, but his main goal is to get back to Hershey," said his father.
Junior Evan Mashack is enjoying a turnaround season. After finishing 9-24 as a sophomore a year ago, Evan is currently 16-8 at 152 pounds.
"When I was younger, I didn't like wrestling as much as I do now," mentioned Evan. "I wanted to get more wins than I had last year, and I'm there already."
"Evan has improved a lot," related Jon. "We bumped him up to 152 pounds and he has taken to that weight class. He accepted he is going to put his heart into it, and it paid off for him."
The youngest Mashack is freshman Colin is wrestling at 103 pounds, although he tips the scale at just 92. A District 11 junior high runner-up last year, Colin has carried that success onto the varsity level with a 15-3 record.
"I thought it (varsity wrestling) would be tough, but I am doing pretty good so far," stated Colin. "I would like to make it to States in my first year if I could."
"You could see at a young age that Colin seemed to enjoy it and had the best knack for it," said Jon.
Each of the brothers has his own personality, but they are all business on the mat.
"All three of them are hard workers," said their father. "Kolby is the leader, Evan is the quiet one and Colin is the most outgoing. Their goals are set for themselves."
LAKITSKY LEGACY - The Mashacks aren't the only legacy on the Tamaqua squad this season.
Senior 215-pounder Garth Lakitsky, THE TIMES NEWS Wrestler of the Year for 2010, is off to a 20-0 start after finishing fourth in the State in Class AA at 189 pounds a season ago.
Lakitsky's father Garth was a teammate of Jon Mashack with the Raiders, placing third at States in 1985 and fourth in 1986.
Other Raiders enjoying winning records so far include Travis Veronsky (19-5), Matt Edmonds (16-5), Brandan Silkowski (1-2), Philip Christman (11-9) and Derek Drum (8-5).
OFF THE MAT RANKINGS - Mark Dugan has released his first set of Off the Mat State Rankings for the top returnees in Class AA.
Seven TIMES NEWS area wrestlers are mentioned in the initial rankings.
Northern Lehigh's Colin Hedash is ranked second at 171 pounds; Tamaqua's Garth Lakitsky is fifth at 215; Northern Lehigh's Nikko Stevens is sixth and Tamaqua's Kolby Mashack eighth at 140; No. Lehigh's Zane Heller is 10th at 125; Lehighton's Anthony Farole is 11th at 145; and Panther Valley's Nick O'Donnell is 15th at 112.
SCHUYLKILL TOURNAMENT SATURDAY - The annual Schuylkill League Tournament is scheduled for Saturday at Blue Mountain High School.
Unlike previous years, this year's Schuylkill tourney is a one-day affair. With the defection of Shamokin and Mount Carmel to the Heartland Conference, the field for this year's event had been reduced to 13 teams.
The host Eagles have won the last three Schuylkill All-League meet titles, and they return three champions in Brandon Choate (a three-time gold medalist), Corey Keener (a two-time titlist) and Travis Moyer.
Other returning champions from a year ago include Tamaqua's Garth Lakitsky, who is after his third league title; Panther Valley's Nick O'Donnell; and Pine Grove's Kody Rittenbaugh.
The loss of Shamokin removed a pair of defending champs from the field in Brandon Pesarchick and Wes Tillett. Another champ, Garrett VanDeMark, transferred from North Schuylkill to Towanda.
Five other grapplers from THE TIMES NEWS area return after winning medals in last year's tournament. Tamaqua's Kolby Mashack was a silver medalist last season after placing second as a freshman and third as a sophomore, while the Raiders' Travis Veronsky and Jim Thorpe's Brian Ohl each finished fourth. Thorpe's Tyler Mangold finished fifth and Panther Valley's Alex Lorkowski was sixth.
The time schedule is as follows: preliminaries, 9 a.m.; quarterfinals, 10 a.m.; first round consolations, 11 a.m.; semifinals/second round consolations, 12 noon; consolation semifinals, 3 p.m.; and championships/consolation finals, 6 p.m.
PLEASANT VALLEY HOSTS NHSCA EVENT - Pleasant Valley will host the 10th Annual National High School Coaches Association High School Wrestling Festival on Saturday.
According to the NHSCA website, 22 teams have confirmed their participation in the event, including District 11 squads East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Emmaus, Northampton, Stroudsburg and the host Bears.
Other Keystone State squads include Archbishop Wood, Benton, Cedar Cliff, Lewisburg, and Souderton, while out of state teams include Bergen Catholic (N.J.), Blair Academy (N.J.), Don Bosco Prep (N.J.), Franklin (MA.), Long Branch (N.J.), Springfield Central (MA.), St. Augustine Prep (N.J.), St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.) and Timberlane (N.H.).
Also on Saturday, Lehighton will host its annual Indian Duals tournament.
BULLDOGS AT BROOKVILLE - Northern Lehigh will once again participate in the Johnson Motors Ultimate Duals at Brookville High School, scheduled on Saturday.
The Ultimate Duals traditionally feature some of the top Class AA mat teams in the State, and this year is no exception. The field includes defending AA state champ Fort LeBoeuf and perennial power Reynolds, which has won 25 straight matches at the Duals and has a regular season winning streak of over 100.
Also in the tournament are Ridgway, Burrell, Mercer and host Brookville.
The Bulldogs' schedule is as follows: 8 a.m., Fort LeBoeuf; 12:30, Burrell; 2 p.m., Ridgway; 5 p.m., Mercer; 6:30, Reynolds.