HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Hoosick Falls Central School wrestling coach Landon Nelson called the 2012-13 season ‘the best ever’ in program history.
The Panthers won the Division II, Class C title on its home mats, then traveled to Queensbury High School and won the small school title for the first time ever.
Then, Luis Weierbach dominated at the state tournament, rolling through the 106-pound bracket and taking home a state title to Hoosick Falls.
So what to do for an encore?
"Our goal is to meet or beat the performance from the year before," Nelson said before practice this week. "It was such a perfect season as a team last year and that’s all you can aim for."
There’s a good mixture of younger, less experienced wrestlers and the ones that have been through the wringer once or twice.
Four graduated, including Brad Burns, who finished third in the state at 182 pounds. Billy Pine, Bryan Sherman and Tyler Randall also graduated.
In the low weights, sophomore Nolan Foster will be at 113 pounds, looking to make a name for himself as Weierbach, who has been at the same weight the past couple of seasons, moves up to 120 for his senior campaign.
"Nolan is tough as nails and he had almost 100 matches this offseason, that’s the equivalent of nearly three varsity seasons," said Nelson, who enters his fourth year as varsity coach. "He’s a completely different wrestler from last year as a freshman, and he made the sectional final. He and Luis work together every day and they push each other to the next level."
Weierbach moves up after a year where he went 37-0.
"He had a big growth spurt during the offseason, I didn’t expect him to move up that much," Nelson said.
Weierbach has hopes of wrestling at West Point next season and has already qualified to attend the school.
"He’ll be closer to the 125-pound class they have in college and he’ll see kids that are stronger and faster at that weight this year," Nelson said. "It just won’t be about strength, technique will be crucial as well."
Weierbach said that having the target of a state championship won’t faze him at all.
"It’s a whole different game [moving up in weight]," he said. "I know I have the target and [the title] carries weight, people know who I am when I step on the mat."
There’s a lot of experience in the middle weights as well. Colby Davendonis will move up to 152 and comes off a thumb injury suffered during the football season. Senior Mike Matatt could wrestle at 140 or 145, while senior Tom Peabody is the likely candidate at 132 pounds.
"I’ve coached those three guys since seventh grade," Nelson said. "They are smart kids and know how to win."
A change this year is the number of bigger weights for the Panthers. After facing forfeits at the heavier weights the past couple of seasons, some younger wrestlers will fill the spots, including freshmen Jake Pine, Bryan Thomas and Alex Hull. Senior Derek Bird should pencil in at 195, while Shane Barss will be in the mix.
"Having those guys will benefit our team, especially in dual meets," Nelson said. "We won’t have to give up 12 or 18 points on forfeits and be in a hole. It’s going to take a season for them to develop, though. I expect them to do well, they’re hard workers and very tough freshmen." Girls Basketball
* Coach: Eamonn DeGraaf (5th season)
* Last year: 14-7, reached Section II semifinal
* So far: 0-1
* The team: In numbers, the roster is light as DeGraaf only kept 11 players on his varsity. In reality, there’s nothing light about it -- as seven seniors show the way, along with the Pine sisters -- junior Rachel and freshman Kelly.
Hoosick Falls loses Frankie Pearson, last year’s Banner Player of the Year and a source of a lot of offense for the Panthers.
Senior Carsen Williams leads the offense at point guard, she’ll score points, but she’s just as adept as finding open teammates. Classmates Olivia Schneider and Ashley St. Onge are quality shooters, something that opponents will have to guard. If they don’t, both could have good years scoring.
Taylor Hayes, another senior, has some height and will be a nice option off a short bench for the Panthers.
Kelly Pine led the Panthers with 14 points in the team’s first game of the year against Glens Falls, and according to DeGraaf, that total could have been even higher.
Sophomore Megan Flynn, a player coming up from the junior varsity, should get some major minutes and be a threat this year, especially down low.
* Next game: 12/6 at Granville, 7:30 p.m.
-- Adam Samrov
* Coach: Mike Lilac (15th season)
* Last year: 9-9, reached Sectional tournament
* So far: 2-0
* The team: The Panthers lose a few key players from a year ago, but this year’s team will benefit from three juniors who return with varsity experience.
Austin Pitt and Andrew Hoag, both starters last season for Hoosick Falls, return to this year’s team, while Will Bradley, a contributor off the bench last season, will take on a bigger role in the 2013-2014 season.
Mark Hackett and Noah Chani make the jump up to varsity this year, and the two juniors already have made an impact, leading the team to an opening-night win. Hackett, in particular, is one player coach Mike Lilac is expecting to produce big numbers.
The Panthers are also waiting on two players to return from injury. Connor McCart picked up a knee injury during football and will be out for about two more months, while senior Levi Brewster picked up an injury during the final game of the year, and will be out for a few weeks.
In the mean time, coach Lilac wants his team to hold down the fort until the team can return to full strength
* Next game: 12/6 vs. Granville, 7:30 p.m.
-- Geoff Smith
* Coach: Bob Lang
* Last year: Section II C-D champions (third straight)
* So far: 8-0 (2 wins)
* The team: The Panther bowlers have started the season fast out of the gate, winning its first two matches. On Tuesday, junior Ken Marbot -- Lang’s most consistent bowler -- tossed a 300 game and a 716 series in a rout over Hadley-Luzerne.
Sophomore Jennifer Sargood is expected to be in the top three or four scorers for much of the season as will eighth-grader A.J. Hurlburt, who has already put up two 600-plus series this season.
Sophomores Kyla Day, Josh McCart and Stephen Surdam should fight for scoring spots -- there’s only four in any match -- on a daily basis. Freshman Jon Bossoni has been the leading JV bowler and would move up the list if others fall.
* Next game: 12/5 at Schuylerville, 4 p.m.
-- Adam Samrov