Last year at this time, Panther Valley's Richard Nase was at St. Christopher's Children's Hospital in Philadelphia battling Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a very rare but life-threatening skin disorder. Nase went through extensive testing and treatments in an effort to get the condition under control, but there was no guarantee he would be able to return to a normal life as a high school student.
Not only has Nase returned to the Panther's this year, he is one of the most dominant forces in the lineup, compiling a 24-10 record up to this point of the season.
Panther Valley coach Tim Robb credits Nase's work ethic as one of the primary reasons he was able to return and contribute.
"He worked his tail off to get back to where he is," Robb said. "For him to still be as athletic and as much of a force as he's been for us this season is just amazing."
Even if Nase couldn't do as much as he wanted, he always tried to make sure he stayed active.
"I tried to do everything as soon as possible," Nase said. "Even if I couldn't work out as much as I wanted, I tried to do as much as I could and just listen to the doctors."
Nase has always had a desire to compete, but what he went through last year just might have given him that extra push at times this year.
"Sports have always been a major part of his life," said Robb. "I think what he went through last year has given him that extra drive this year."
While sports are and always have been a major part of his life, last year's experience has put things in perspective for the entire team.
"We went down (to Philadelphia) after the East Stroudsburg North match last year and it changed kids," Robb said. "We feared he would lose his life.
"It brought the team much closer together."
The community suport was overwhelming for Nase, as the Panther Valley Football Parents' Club set up a fund to help the Nase's as they went through such a trying time. That community support is what Nase remembers the most.
"The community support helped more than anything," Nase said. "Everyone came together to help and I just want to thank everyone for everything.
"It meant everything to me."
Nase also has a lot of support from within his team and coaches to lean on when he needs to.
"They would just show up in Philly to say hi and it meant a lot," Nase said. "We got a lot closer as a group.
"Coach Robb was like a father to me and he really helped me out."
There's no doubt the feeling is mutual.
"To do what Richard has done is amazing," Robb said. "I'm always rooting for him."
STATE CHAMPSAGAIN…Bethlehem Catholic defeated Reynolds 43-16 to claim its third straight PIAA Class AA team wrestling title. With the win, the Golden Hawks finished the season undefeated at 18-0.
STATE CHAMPS PART TWO…Canon-McMillan claimed the PIAA Class AAA team wrestling title with a 34-31 win over Central Dauphin on Saturday. The contest was tied at 31 heading into the last match at 106, where Canon-McMillan's Brendan Price defeated Central Dauphin's Zach Elvin to secure the title for the Big Macs.
CLOSING TIME…Coming into the last week of the regular season, teams will be looking to finish strong before the District 11 individual tournament starts on Feb. 23. For certain wrestlers, this will be the last time they will suit up for their teams and they will be looking to go out on a high note.