It was only three years ago that Northwestern's wrestling team went 11-0, capping a 5-year run in which it went 52-3 in the Colonial League.
The seniors on this year's team were freshman back then, when the team won it's second straight league and district titles.
The Tigers have gone 15-7 in league matches the past two seasons and could be ready to contend for titles again this season.
Led by a five returning seniors and bolstered by several talented younger grapplers, Northwestern will field a strong line up in 2010-11.
"We return a lot of experience," said head coach Jim Moll. "We have a lot of seniors this year. We have a lot of returning letter winners."
Leading the way are returning district medal winners Bobby Clymer and Kyle Sorensen.
Clymer went 26-6 at 145 last year while placing fifth in the district. Sorensen was fifth at 160, finishing the season with a 15-6 record.
Other returning seniors include LJ Walker (12-16 at 171 last year), Dustin Badesso (6-23 at 125), Alec Eidelman (9-20 at 285) and Michael Hontz.
A few returning juniors are also coming off solid seasons, including Ethan Keichel (19-14 at 125), Levi Veppert (18-16 at 152), David Tirpak (10-20 at 189) and David Grace.
Sophomore Michael Ortiz, who got on the mat after making weight near mid-season, performed well at 103, earning the Parkland Duals Outstanding Wrestler Award. This year Ortiz will move up to 130.
Newcomers to the varsity team this year include Cole Miller (103), Brendan Lutton (112), Tyler Walton (119), Alex Fixl (125), Mitchell Evans (145), Tad Vogels (145), Alex Buskirk (160), Donovan Baatz (215) and Jeff Tobash.
Last season the Tigers' strength was in the lighter weights with Keichel, Ortiz and graduates Eddie Faust (125) and district silver medalist Dylan Long (112). They did some juggling with the line up to fill all the weights in some matches.
While they might still have to move guys around this year to form the best line up, the Tigers will be more balanced across all 14 weight classes.
"We're kind of spread out," Moll said. "We had to bump around a lot last year. We may have to do some things this year again. Our numbers are up this year at the high school and junior high level."
Only Long advanced through regionals last year, while Sorensen and Clymer both finished fifth at districts, missing out on regional berths by one place.
"I think we underperformed at districts last year," Moll said. "We had a pretty good offseason. Hopefully that translates onto the mat."
Northwestern is trying to get back into league and district title contention as it was from 2003 through 2008. But it won't be easy. The league is as tough as ever. Pen Argyl, Saucon Valley, Wilson and Northern Lehigh will field tough teams this year.
A December 22 match against Saucon Valley should be a good indicator of how well the Tigers can compete. They will face Wilson (Jan. 17), Northern Lehigh (Jan. 26) and Pen Argyl (Jan. 29) later in the season.
"There are a lot of good teams in the Colonial League," Moll said. "PA, NL, SV. We have our hands full in the Colonial League. I'm excited to see how we do."