To many, the sight of Jake Hoats or Colin Mashack walking through the halls of their school doesn't trigger the phrase "outstanding athlete."
That's because for many, the perception of a superior competitor is someone who stands at least six-foot and weighs no less than 180 pounds.
But while Hoats and Mashack, who are small in stature and barely tip the scales at 100, may not give off the impression of your classic sports figure, to those that follow the sport of wrestling they know better.
In the TIMES NEWS area, the two make up half of a top-notch group of 106-pounders the lightest weight class in high school wrestling.
Besides Hoats, from Lehighton; and Mashack, from Tamaqua, the area also boasts Pleasant Valley's Kenny Yanovich and Panther Valley's Len Ogozalek.
"You look at the pros and the most popular sports are football, baseball, basketball. And it seems the bigger you are, the better," said Pleasant Valley head wrestling coach Mark Getz. "People get the assumption that to be a great athlete you have to be big and chiseled.
"Wrestling offers an opportunity for lightweights to excel. You get to wrestle someone your own weight."
The four local grapplers have been rather successful this season wrestling people their own size.
Yanovich is state-ranked in AAA and boasts a 21-2 record. Mashack, ranked in the state in AA, is 25-1 and is coming off a Schuylkill League championship he gained this past weekend. Hoats, a senior, has compiled an impressive 17-4 mark while Ogozalek is 23-6 and placed third at the Schuylkill meet, losing only to Mashack.
Combined they have an outstanding record of 86-13.
And combined, their weight wouldn't equal the total of two high school football linemen.
"At 106 pounds, they'll never really play football or basketball but when it comes to wrestling they can be one of the top athletes in the state," said Tamaqua mentor Jim McCabe. "What wrestling gives the smaller guys is the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. And then it's the best man wins. It's just one-on-one on the mat."
Once on the mat, most 106-pounders show off their athletic skills. Their matches are usually up-tempo and full of action traits that make them some of the best athletes in any sport.
"In all honesty, I think 106 pounds might be the toughest weight," said Hoats. "Any weight is tough, but you have to be quick, you have to be conditioned, and you also have to be strong. Working on all three aspects can be hard to do."
"I think with the smaller kids they just have so much quickness," said Getz. "They're quick and agile. They move more quickly than most other wrestlers. At 106, Yanovich is probably pound-for-pound our strongest kid.
"They're always buzzing around," said Panther Valley head coach Tim Robb. "Many times they're the fastest in the room and the hardest workers. Many times it's the strongest weight class because there's a group of them where this is the only sport they can do."
While the opportunity to compete makes wrestling more attractive than other sports, it doesn't mean you can just step on the mat and have success.
And once you have success, it doesn't always mean it will continue.
"I think wrestling does attract guys at a smaller size,"said Lehighton mentor Dan Williams. "Not to pick on football, but these guys look there and they say I don't fit in there. But the way wrestling is set up and the way the weight classes are set up a guy that's the size of Jake or 113 pounds will say I can fit in there.
"With Jake being a senior, he absolutely has an advantage. He has a level of experience and a level of development that certainly helps out. But just like anyone else, he can't just say I'm a senior so I can go out there and win. He has to put his time in the weight room, build up his endurance, and he has to work just as hard if not harder than anybody else."
Besides the hard work and conditioning, which is common in any sport, the wrestlers have to deal with other situations.
"I feel wrestling is by far the toughest sport," said Mashack. "With cutting weight and pushing yourself as hard as you have to, it's really tough. You just have to push the pain out of your head because as much as you move you can get tired right away. You have to push through it. Sometimes it's all mental."
"Wrestling is unlike any other sport," said Williams. "You hear six minutes and you think I can do anything for six minutes until you actually go out and do it. It's a whole other level of conditioning. I've seen many a guy with that big football-player type build come into a wrestling room and not be able to do it."
With Hoats, Mashack, Ogozalek and Yanovich, not only have they done it but they have done it better than most despite just being 106 pounds.
"It's not the height that matters, or the weight, it's the size of your heart along with determination and will," said Hoats.
100 AND COUNTING ... Ernie Klingel recently became the second Pleasant Valley wrestler to reach the century mark in wins this season.
Klingel achieved the milestone this past weekend at the Clearfield Duals. The 132-pounder went 5-0 at the Duals and joins Mike Dahlstrom in the 100-win club. Dahlstrom eclipsed 100 wins earlier this season at the Reno Tournament of Champions.
The Bears won the Clearfield Duals, going 5-0. They defeated General McClane, ranked 21st in the state in AAA, to win the title. PV is currently ranked 28th.
BUSY WEEK FOR BOMBERS ... Palmerton, at 4-1 in the Colonial League, faces a number of league foes in the next few days.
In battling for a spot in the CL postseason, the Blue Bombers face Bangor (4-2) on Wednesday, Pen Argyl (5-0) on Thursday, and Northern Lehigh on Saturday.