Ninth-year Tuslaw High School wrestling coach Chase Horvath knew from the outset of the 2012-13 season that his grapplers had great potential and he made sure the Mustangs were aware of it.
"I told the boys [during] the first practice that I thought we could win it all and become Division III champions," Horvath said.
The team's impressive start, including a decisive 5-0, first-place finish at the Indian Valley Dual Tournament, boosted the team's collective confidence.
"The early success the team had played a huge role in them believing and buying into the belief that it could happen," Horvath said.
It also, at times, led the Mustangs to become overconfident.
Tuslaw had a disappointing showing at the prestigious Medina Invitational Tournament in late December, tying for 26th-place in the team standings in the 39-squad field.
"We just didn't manage our weight properly and wrestled poorly because of it," Horvath said, reflecting back to the MIT. "The kids learned that I was not kidding when I told them to diet and work hard."
Horvath hasn't been the only one pushing the Mustangs to give it their all during every practice and competition. Senior D.J. Blair won't stand for anything less, according to his coach.
"One time at practice, he thought the team was not working hard enough and put the team on the wall to run sprints," Horvath explained. "Not only did he run, but he won every one he made the team run."
Tuslaw, which is located in Massillon, placed atop the team standings at five tournaments this season and posted a 29-1 dual meet record.
The Mustangs capped the team portion of their schedule by placing second at the first-ever Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III Wrestling State Championships on Feb. 9.
"I thought the team tournament was great," Horvath said. "It allowed the team to showcase its depth."
Tuslaw finished second in the team standings at last weekend's Division III Northwestern Sectional Tournament and qualified nine wrestlers to this weekend's district tournament at Garfield Heights.
Horvath hopes to have at least six Mustangs qualify for the state tournament, which would set a school record, and have at least three of those wrestlers place at the state tournament, setting another school record.
"It has been an amazing year and we're not done yet," Horvath said.
Earlier this month, Horvath answered questions about the Mustangs and their season thus far for WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site.
WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site: What motto did your team adopt for this season?
Tuslaw wrestling coach Chase Horvath: "We do not lose" was the motto I kept telling the boys. Nothing special, but they seemed to believe.
WKYC: What are three adjectives that describe your team and/or its season thus far?
Horvath: The things I am looking for in a team. 1. Be a pinner. 2. Be aggressive. 3. Never quit.
WKYC: What have been your team's greatest strengths this season that have allowed it to perform as one of the state's best?
Horvath: I think the senior leadership from D.J. Blair, Dylan Marthey and Dion Perez has been great. Also, we are a pinning machine. We have pinned over 260 kids this season.
WKYC: Who are your team's leaders/captains this season? What attributes/qualities does each bring to the team?
Horvath: We have three captains this season. D.J. Blair is a three-year captain and is the outspoken captain of the team that everyone looks up to. Dion Perez will probably set almost all of the school records this season. He is not a talker, but is a leader by example. The same goes for Dylan Marthey, who does nothing but win and never complains.
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