Entering this season, nobody on the Providence High wrestling team knew what to expect.
Coming off a one-win season and facing the prospect of learning a new system from their fourth coach in as many years, the future was uncertain.
Last year, things started to spiral out of control, and little setbacks quickly turned into bigger issues as the losses mounted. People started to get down on themselves and were pressing too hard for wins, according to Travis Chambers, a 215-pound senior.
This year started differently.
"We were optimistic coming into the season. It was exciting, something it hasn't been in a while," said 112-pound senior Trey Roselles, who has been on the team since he was a freshman. "We had a new coach who came in and wanted to get things done, and it rubbed off on us. We have a lot of seniors with experience, so that helped, too."
As this season winds down with state championships beginning this week, the Panthers wrestling team has newfound stability; the future suddenly looks very bright after 11 wins this year.
"It has been a really large turnaround and we are all really proud," said first-year coach Chuck Lansing. "Several of the guys have had great individual seasons that have given us a chance in every match."
The nine seniors on the team can see the changes due to Lansing's attitude and discipline.
"A big difference this year is coach Lansing. He has brought in a different mindset," said Chambers. "He tends to focus more on getting in shape, conditioning and our focus. He teaches us new techniques but also how it is important to be able to last long on the mat so we can use those techniques."
Lansing inherited a team with talent, but they were not able to channel it until this season.
"I warned our guys about making their weight before the season started, and they still showed up overweight. Due to state regulations, it took a while for them to be where they needed to be," Lansing said. "Once that was taken care of we started the year with a win and looked really strong heading into the holidays."
Five sophomores and four freshmen are getting valuable experience, but there is still work to do this season.
Providence lost one of its team leaders and best wrestlers when 130-pound Will Getsinger recently went down with a dislocated elbow. Getsinger was a potential state champion who had a 33-10 individual record this year before the injury.
"It is a heartbreaking loss for the team and the worst possible end to a fantastic career at Providence," said Lansing. "It kind of deflated us, but we have to focus on what lies ahead and the talent we still have."
Among the eight other seniors is Braxton McCoy, who is 29-6 on the season and the leading Panther candidate to win a state title this year.
Freshman 125-pounder Huston Pashoian is a newcomer who helps set the tone for the Panthers' future.
"In the next two years, this is going to be a good team," said 130-pound senior Blake Osborn. "I think they may be good next year, but they are going to have a solid team for years to come.
"Hopefully, we have worked to set the foundation for what is to come."
Lansing said he is happy with the progress and expects to have as many as three state-champion qualifiers next year. Although the loss of Getsinger took some momentum from the Panthers, the year has been a success.
"A coach that cares makes a really big difference," Chambers said. "You can work hard by yourself but you have to have a coach that brings it all together. That is the biggest thing that has made this year such a success."
Lansing brought in a few Panther alumni to work with the team this year and thinks it has helped bring pride and accountability to the program. The effort has helped the development of the younger guys on the team and will pay off in the future, he said.
After the season is over, the returning wrestlers will get a month off before starting individual work. Lansing will have them at a couple of area camps but will count on them to continue what was started.
This is "a dramatic turnaround from a season ago, and we hope we can use that success to build on," said Lansing. "We have made strides this year and want to continue to get the program where it should be."