Northwestern had its streak of district final appearances end last year. Now the Tigers are looking to start another streak.
The Tigers might not have the star power in their line up that they've had over the past six years, however they could have a more balanced line up this year and be better prepared to compete for team titles.
"I think we're a better dual-meet team than we were last year," said first-year head coach Jim Moll. "We were a good tournament team last year."
Since 2005 Northwestern has graduated nine 100-win wrestlers. The Tigers won district titles in 2007 and 2008. They were runners up each year from 2004 to 2007. Last year they lost in the first round of districts to a Catasauqua team they had crushed in the regular season.
"This year we want to focus on improving on last year," Moll said. "We set a goal to be in the running for the Colonial League title at the end of the year. The end of our schedule is stacked with Pen Argyl, Wilson, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua, all teams that we lost to at one point last season."
The Tigers graduated five seniors, including the school's career win leader in Evan Yenolevich, state qualifier Ricky Williams, along with Eddie Keichel and Stephen Zandarski.
Northwestern also lost Lucas Dise, who went 24-5 last year as a junior before transferring to Northern Lehigh for his senior year.
The Tigers return a solid core from last year, led by seniors Eddie Faust, Dylan Long and Nick Boyd.
Long went 31-14 last year and placed seventh at states. Faust, who won a district title as a sophomore, was 19-12 last year. Nick Boyd went 22-12 last year and placed sixth at districts.
Other returning wrestlers with varsity experience include junior Bobby Clymer (17-11 last year), junior Kyle Sornesen (15-14), senior Jake Moyer (8-17), junior Dustin Badesso (5-7), sophomore Levi Veppert (3-5), junior Mike Hontz (4-2) and junior Brandon Miller (1-2).
The rest of this year's varsity team includes junior Alec Eidelman, sophomores Ethan Keichel, Ryan McNally, David Tirpak and Chris Nuualiattia and freshman Michael Ortiz, who was a junior high district runner up last year.
Ortiz will start at 103 as soon as the two-pound allowance kicks in. He'll be followed by Long (112), Keichel (119) or Hontz (119) and Faust (125), giving the Tigers some pop in the lower weights.
The rest of Northwestern line up includes Miller (130), Badesso (135), McNally (140), Clymer or Moyer at 145 with Veppert, Clymer or Moyer at 152. Sorensen (160), Tirpak and Walker at 171 and 189, a forfeit at 215 and Eidelman at heavyweight rounds out the line up.
Moll expects big years out of his returning seniors as well as some others, especially Sorensen, Clymer, Veppert, and possibly Hontz, who won some big matches late last season.
With their toughest matches scheduled near the end of the season, the Tigers have time to get ready for that stretch run.
"We're focusing on the end of the season," Moll said. "Our main goal is always to prepare for postseason."