HAWLEY — Steve Krushnowski is up-front and honest when asked about this year's team.
Wallenpaupack Area's veteran wrestling coach is "amazed" at the success his young squad has enjoyed alread in 2012-13.
"To be perfectly honest, I'd have been satisfied if we were 3-7 at this point," he told The News Eagle on the eve of a non-league match with Lake Lehman.
"So, to be sitting here at 8-2 is pretty incredible. We have a ton of freshmen and sophomores in the starting line-up, but they're wrestling more like juniors and seniors. It's very gratifying to see."
Weather permitting, those young grapplers will likely be pushed to the limit over the next week or so. Why? Well, because Paupack is entering the most brutal section of its schedule ... one that even a team of seasoned veterans would find daunting
After Lake Lehman, the Buckhorns will compete at the Jersey Shore Duals. They then return home to face undefeated Delaware Valley (Tuesday), followed by dual meets with Valley View (Wednesday) and perennial PIAA powerhouse Parkland (Friday).
"To say that this next week will be challenging is a huge understatement," said Coach Krushnowski with a laugh. "But, we'll take it one day at a time and hopefully come out stronger on the other side."
Most loyal fans are familiar with Paupack's big guns.
Chase Gallik and Jared Wehrmann have been at the forefront of the Buckhorn attack all season. Both are sophomores and each is racking up prestige points in advance of this year's District Two tournament.
Gallik has bounced back & forth between 120 and 126, compiling a dazzling record of 13-3. Chase has notched nine pins and a tech fall to date.
Wehrmann began the campaign at 195, but is now settled in at 182. Jared boasts a 13-2 mark with eight falls.
Page 2 of 2 - While these two lads anchor Paupack's line-up, a trio of teammates has burst onto the varsity scene and earned rave reviews from Coach Krushnowski.
Andrew Demchuk is first on the list. A sophomore who competes at 113, Demchuk shook off a sluggish start and now sports a respectable 6-6 record.
"I think the most surprising thing about Andrew so far is how he's emerged as a leader," Coach Krushnowski said. "Every time Andrew steps on the mat, he gives us 100 percent. He has a ton of talent, but he works his butt off, too."
Ray Ortiz is turning heads for Paupack as well. A freshman who wasn't expected to play a varsity role, Ortiz overcame illness and injury to win the starting spot.
He's been coming on strong lately at 106 and heads into the weekend with a 4-2 record.
"Looks can be deceiving," said Coach Krushnowski of his diminutive star. "Ray may not be the biggest kid in the world, but he's tenacious. Ray has a little bit of a mean streak and he won't back down from anybody."
Todd Frick is another Buckhorn flying just below the radar who may well ambush some folks come D-2 tourney time.
Another member of a wildly-talented freshmen class, Frick is carving out a niche for himself at 152 ... a weight class traditionally dominated by upperclassmen.
"Fricky might just be the most physical kid we have on this entire team," said Coach Krushnowski. "He reminds me a lot of Pat Ingulli on the mat. Fricky is fearless and aggressive. He goes right after anyone he wrestles."
That "Ingulli-esque" approach has resulted in an 8-6 record this winter, seven of those wins coming via fall.