The future looks extremely bright for the Panther Valley wrestling team.
With strong numbers in the elementary program and a talented and deep freshmen class impacting the varsity lineup, veteran coach Tim Robb is excited about what lies ahead.
Robb's goal is to make sure the path from the present to the future is not shrouded in darkness.
"We lost eight wrestlers who started for us last year and we'll be replacing almost all of them with freshman and sophomores," said Robb. "We have some really good young talent, but it's not fair to put them out there and expect them to have immediate success.
"A lot of these kids were junior high wrestlers last year and it's a big jump to go from wrestling seventh and eighth graders to being thrown up against high school seniors."
Despite the huge learning curve the Panther underclassmen will face, Robb likes what he sees so far both on the mat and off the mat.
"We are getting great leadership from our seniors and juniors," he said. "We don't have a lot of experience in our upperclassmen, but what we do have is a great work ethic and outstanding attitudes."
Sophomore Lenny Ogozalek is Panther Valley's top returning wrestler. Ogozalek was 19-11 a year ago, one of just two returning wrestlers who recorded double digit victories last season. He is slated to wrestle at 106 pounds, which is the lightest weight class (this year the PIAA has increased the maximum weights in 13 of the 14 classes).
Senior John Horvath (12-17 last season), who will wrestle at either 195 or 220 pounds this year, along with sophomore Richard Nase, who will be at either 182 or 195 pounds, and freshman Rian Shubeck, who will be at 220 or 285 pounds, join Ogozalek as wrestlers who Robb feels will lead the team and could have some postseason success.
The Panthers' varsity roster is comprised of Ogozalek (106); freshman Mike Lazar (106); freshman Seth Oriel (106/113); freshman Nick Mazzie (126/132); freshman Zach Glassic (126/132); freshman Tony Yeager (132); sophomore Mike Hrebik (138); freshman Hunter Davidyock (138); senior Dustin Marblestone (145); senior Gage Rohlfing (152); freshman Matt Buss (152/160); junior Jared Eichkoff (160); sophomore Pat Iezzoni (160); senior Stephen Snyder (160/170); Nase (182/195); Horvath (195/220); and Shubeck (220/285).
"With as young and inexperienced as we are, we're working a lot on fundamentals and techniques at practice," said Robb. "We want to improve every time we step on the mat."
Despite the heavy graduation losses, Robb said the Panthers don't plan on relinquishing the Schuylkill League Division 2 title they won last year without a fight.
"We handed out goal sheets to all of our wrestlers and every single kid put down defending the Division championship as a goal," said Robb. "I really like that and I feel it's a goal that's possible to achieve."
If the Panthers can pull off the title repeat, it would serve as the perfect floodlight on the path to future success.