For Bedford's Trey Easter and Huntingdon's Collin Glorioso, the 2012-13 season was one they won't soon forget. They both came oh so close to being the best at their respective weight classes at the PIAA Championships.
Now, most likely, they're even hungrier to be the best.
Easter finished second at 120 pounds, losing to Bethlehem Catholic two-time state champion Darian Cruz, 16-4, in the finals. Glorioso, who caught fire in the postseason, took third at 106 pounds, losing to another Bethlehem Catholic star, Luke Karam, 11-0, in the 106-pound semifinals.
Easter returns for his senior season at around 126 or 132 after going 36-3 last season, and he'll be looking for his fourth state medal and going more medal better than his dad, Joel. He's also aiming for his fourth District 5 title and his first Southwest Regional gold after settling for silver the previous three years.
"I'm at the top now and people are going to have to respect me a little bit more," Easter said after the finals last season. "If I can get to the finals of Pa. states, I can get to the finals of any tournament, and win any tournament in the country."
Glorioso's third-place medal was the best for a Huntingdon wrestler since Dave Distler took second in 1993. He went 39-5 as a freshman, led the area in technical falls with seven and had 15 pins. He finished second in the District 6 Class A Tournament, but he won a very deep regional, avenging his district finals loss to Forest Hills' Triston Law, 3-0, in the finals.
It was believed the tall, lanky Glorioso would jump a few weights this season, but he told the Mirror's John Hartsock in a story for the Pennsylvania Wrestling Newsmagazine that he'd probably start at 113 and then drop to 106 after Christmas, which would make him a beast to deal with for any of his opponents.
"If I feel good down at that lower weight, I'll try to stay there for the district, regional and state tournaments," Glorioso said in the PWN story.
Altoona's T.J. Brandt, the Mirror Wrestler of the Year and four-time District 6 Class AAA champ, has graduated, as has Chestnut Ridge four-time District 5 champ Tyler Dibert, Moshannon Valley's career win leader James Stodart and Claysburg-Kimmel buzzsaw Josh Brown.
Only one other state placer returns in Chestnut Ridge 285-pounder Austin Buttry, who finished fifth last season. But there are other potential placewinners on Ridge's talent-laden team in Trent Crouse, who is listed on the Ridge roster at 160 after finishing at 126, Derrick Claar and Aaron Burkett.
The Lions will be the team to beat in the area, and will make a big push to be one of the best in the state again after winning the District 5 Duals for the first time, the individual tournament for the second straight year and took fourth at the PIAA Duals. They went 25-3 last season after going 26-6 the year before.
"We have a solid lineup, mostly filled with experienced wrestlers," said Ridge coach Greg Lazor, who was not only the Mirror's Coach of the Year and the District 5 Coach of the Year for the second straight year, but he was also the PIAA Class AA Coach of the Year.
"We should be a decent team with potential to grow. If some of our good wrestlers take the next step to great, and our new wrestlers learn to hold their own, we hope to be in the mix at districts by the end of the year."
Arch-rival Bedford will likely push the Lions to the brink like last year. Ridge won two close meets against Bedford - 34-30 in the District 5 Duals finals and 39-32 in the December match. This year, they'll clash for the first time on Dec. 21 at Bedford.
As far as individuals are concerned, stars like Bedford's Jonathan Gabriel, Garrett Thomas and Toby Brett, Tyrone's 2012 state qualifier Jared Beckwith and Jason Schopp, Central's Kale Burket and Jordan Quarello and Central Cambria's Tom Opdenhoff in Class AA will look to make noise in Hershey.
Philipsburg-Osceola's Chris Thompson and Bub Lumadue, Altoona's returning state qualifier D.J. Hollingshead and Hollidaysburg's Damian Huff are among other Class AAA area wrestlers who will likely win many bouts.
Beckwith and Thompson both saw their season come to close before districts because of injuries, and Burket finished sixth at regionals, despite a knee injury that was surgically repaired later. Injuries are always a concern, and they are again this year already. Cambria Heights' Joe Davis and Austin Gill have suffered what coach Mike Eckenrode says are "unfortunate" injuries.
As always, young stars will burst upon the scene this season. Leading the list is Altoona freshman Cole Manley, who might be a bit small for 106, but he's a four-time Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state finalist and two-time champion.
Huntingdon freshman Jacob Oliver, a PJW state champ last year, Ridge's Josh McGill, P-O's Dakota Weitoish and Penn Cambria's Nolan Link are among the other future young stars. Link is a junior who sat out last season as a sophomore because he was too small for 106, but he's grown into the weight.
There are two new coaches in Claysburg's Dave Aungst and Portage's Steve Makin, who was a star at Central Cambria. Aungst has taken over after the recent resignation of Dave Marko, who went 234-84 in 18 years at C-K, and is now the Central junior high coach.