HAWLEY — It's an exciting time to be part of Wallenpaupack Area's wrestling program.
Seventeen seniors were lost to graduation last year, leaving the fate of this year's varsity team squarely in the hands of underclassmen.
According to coach Steve Krushnowski, Paupack will feature six freshmen and six sophomores in the starting line-up … a fact that brings a smile to the face of this 13-year veteran skipper.
"It's absolutely exciting," he told The News Eagle.
"I don't know how many matches we'll win this year, but I honestly believe we're laying the groundwork for something special."
The Buckhorns are already hard at work for the 2012-'13 season and will be on the mat this weekend at Wyalusing.
"We've had quite a bit of success at the Ram Duals," Coach Krushnowski said. "We finished second there last year, but I really don't know what to expect this year. It's exciting, but it's a little scary too."
Paupack will face Blue Ridge, Columbia Montour Vo-Tech, Waverly (NY) and Wyalusing in pool play.
Paupack returns very few experienced grapplers, but two in particular stand out and must take on the mantle of leadership.
Chase Gallik and Jared Wehrmann are both sophomores and each is on the threshold of a breakout campaign.
"Both of those kids have state rankings going into the season and that's a first for us," Coach Krushnowski said. "Chase and Jared have to be the kids we build our line-up around."
Gallik made a smooth transition from superstar status in the junior high ranks to varsity starter last winter. In fact, Chase piled up 32 wins as a frosh, took second at the District Two tournament and advanced to regionals for the first time.
Page 2 of 3 - This season, Gallik will bring a #17 PA state ranking into the Lackawanna League wars with him at 126 pounds. He's also #1 in his class academically.
"Chase is incredibly intelligent," said Coach Krushnowski. "He's self-motivated and a very hard worker. When Chase steps on the mat, he's always prepared. He always has a gameplan going in."
Wehrmann compiled a 33-11 mark last year while wrestling mostly at 195.
He placed 4th at the District Two Class AAA tourney and heads into the current campaign sporting a #24 pre-season PA state ranking at 182 pounds.
"Jared is the epitome of a hard worker," said Coach Krushnowski. "He grew up on a farm and he's as strong as an ox. Jared's work ethic is just flat-out unbelievable. He has a huge heart and he never quits on anything."
While Gallik and Wehrmann have a full year of varsity experience under their belts, several rookies are showing brilliant flashes of potential.
At the top of that list is Isaiah Rios.
A freshman who's expected to fit in at either 132 or 138, Rios has already earned a starting slot from his mentor.
"Isaiah Rios may be the best ninth grade athlete in the building," said Coach Krushnowski. "He has all those intangibles that you just can't coach. Isaiah is so quick on his feet and has such great mat awareness. I can't wait to see what he can do out there."
Other wrestlers who'll be given an opportunity to shine this season include...
•Freshmen: Todd Frick (152), Kyle Hartman (195).
•Sophomores: Jake Haupt (170), Jackson Murray (160).
Page 3 of 3 - Juniors: Jovon Marshall (195), Kenny Roman (Hwt), Ryan Tarantino (132), Jake LaFave (220).
Seniors: Calvin Kreiter (Hwt), Mike Pajalich (Hwt).