While the success of many other Cazenovia High School athletic teams has delighted the community, the rise of the wrestling Lakers to the top of the OHSL Liberty division is a particular source of inspiration.
Earlier this decade, participation was so low that the program was nearly dropped, a fate many local high school and college programs have struggled to avoid.
Gradually, the crisis abated, participation rose, and top performers like Joel Namy (second in the Division II sectionals at 275 pounds in 2005) and Alex Petroff (second at last year's Division II sectionals at 96 pounds) helped spur the program to even better results.
The payoff has come this winter. Through three league matches, head coach Dale Petroff's Lakers were a perfect 3-0 heading into last Thursday night's first-place showdown with Marcellus at Buckley Gym.
As a large and loud home crowd cheered them on, the Lakers withstood a late charge by the Mustangs and prevailed, 34-22, to claim sole possession of the league lead.
Sam Taylor got it all started at 145 pounds, beating Jeremy Ferris 9-2. After a defeat, Josh Naylor (160 pounds) made an impression when he pinned Tim Reedy with 44 seconds left for six points on the board. Lee Namy (171 pounds) followed Naylor as he topped John Drapiskowski 15-5.
When Chris Popluhar (215 pounds) beat Ross Bolewski 10-5, he began a three-match streak that pushed the Lakers' lead to 28-6. Jeff Riha (103 pounds) claimed a forfeit, while Alex Petroff's fine season continued at 112 pounds with a pin of Mike Tao in 1:34.
Marcellus wasn't done yet, though, as it won the next three contests. Two were pins, while Eric Wells (125 pounds) hung on for six minutes in a 7-3 loss to Pat Cost.
With a chance to clinch the match at 135 pounds, freshman Adam Lockwood fell behind Brian Swete, but made up the points by the end of regulation and, with an escape in overtime, defeated Swete 10-9 to put the meet in Cazenovia's column.