Dante Terenzio took great pains to find the best competition for his team this winter.
Western Wayne's varsity wrestling coach knew that the Lackawanna League's Division Two would be weak in 2012-13.
So, he led his lads to places like Tunkhannock, Towanda and Parkland for grueling invitational tournaments.
The Wildcats captured a District Two team duals title last season and advanced to the PIAA state tourney in Hershey. However, Western Wayne 's stay was a short one and Terenzio vowed such a scenario would never recur as long as he was coaching.
"Defending at duals and getting back to states have always been our top goals," he said. "We knew we'd have to work hard and take some chances so we can get to the next level."
On Tuesday evening, the 'Cats sealed the deal on yet another league title with an overwhelming 70-6 win over Elk Lake.
The local lads also sewed up an invitation to District Duals, finishing once again as Division Two champs and earning Lackawanna League's #1 seed.
According to tournament director Jay Starnes, the 'Cats will begin defense of their Class AA title Friday evening at Lake Lehman.
"We are really looking forward to an outstanding tournament," Starns said.
"There are some very talented teams this year from both the Lackawanna League and the Wyoming Conference. So, the competition should be really good."
Semifinals will also be wrestled that night, while the finals shift to Pittston Area on Saturday.
By the Numbers
Western Wayne's starting line-up is packed with top-flight wrestlers.
There are battle-tested veterans and talented youngsters all up and down the varsity roster. However, they'll have their hands full this weekend at the always-rugged District Duals.
Page 2 of 3 - The 'Cats open their title quest Friday at 6:30 p.m. against Wyoming Area. The Warriors went 2-2 in league action this year and earned a wild card berth.
"We definitely won't be taking that one for granted," said Coach Terenzio. "They are a well-coached team and they have a couple of very good lightweights."
Lake Lehman is the top seed from the Wyoming Valley Conference. The Black Knights were 6-0 in Division Two action and could meet Western Wayne in Saturday's final.
Those same two teams met in last year's title tilt and put on an electrifying show. In the end, the 'Cats emerged with a wild 35-34 victory and moved on to the state tournament.
"We match up pretty well with Lake Lehman, so I'm pretty optimistic," Coach Terenzio said. "If we can pick up a couple of wins in the lower weights and wrestle the way we should in the middle and upper weights, we'll be fine."
Western Wayne was set for a dual meet with West Scranton on Wednesday, which is significant because the Invaders and Knights espouse similar wrestling philosophies.
"They like to work on the edge and they usually don't push the action too much," said Coach Terenzio. "We'll have to be aggressive and also smart in both of those matches."
Other Lackawanna League teams who earned an invite to the Class AA tourney include: Scranton Prep, Trail and Blue Ridge.
Rounding out the WVC pool are: Hanover Area and Wilkes Barre Meyers.
Heading into Wednesday night's match with West Scranton, Western Wayne's overall record stood at 18-4.
Virgil Burns is leading the way statistically this winter. The senior is still undefeated with a sparkling 21-0 record at 195, 220 and heavyweight.
Page 3 of 3 - Morgan Fuller is also enjoying a stellar season. A junior who competes at 138, Fuller sports a 23-3 mark.
Austin Swoyer and Lucas Karnick have also cracked the 20-win barrier this year.
Swoyer is a junior who can line up anywhere from 182 to 220. Austin's record on the eve of the West Scranton match was 22-5.
Karnick is a senior who's enjoying something of a breakout season. Lucas has piled up 21 wins against just four losses at 160.