Boys' Latin wrestling coach Drew Haugh can still feel the disappointment from recent seasons. That's when Boys' Latin took its lumps competing in the 11-team Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
"We had a lot of young guys in the lineup," Haugh said. "We knew a couple of years ago, we would have some growing pains."
The Lakers appear to be beyond their "growing pains" and on the rise with a solid start to the season. They boast a 9-2 dual-meet record.
In fact, the Lakers appear to have the potential to be one of Haugh's best teams in his 15 years on the job.
Boys' Latin returned 10 starters from a squad that posted a 16-7 record last year.
Boys' Latin has been led by senior Evan Dohler (170 pounds, 17-1) and sophomores Kahlan Lee-Lermer (106, 19-2) and Nick Malinowski (113, 17-3).
"We were so excited because we have so many kids back," Haugh said. "We have a really solid lineup."
And it should get better.
Injuries and illness have kept Dohler, Haugh's son Colton (145), Andrew Murrow (195) and Gavin Howell (220), a transfer from Towson High, and freshman Koby Russell (126) out of the lineup at various times this season.
"Once we can field a full lineup, we can be pretty good," Haugh said. "We still haven't had a full lineup yet and we have managed to win (eight) dual meets. We have had to juggle our lineup around a lot."
Dohler is off to the best start of any Laker, finishing second in the Mount Mat Madness tournament on Dec. 29.
He also took first in Parkville High's Knightmare Tournament about three weeks earlier.
Last year, Dohler went 26-10, won the Overlea Invitational and finished fourth in the MIAAs.
"He's been perfect except for an injury default in the Mount Madness," Haugh said. "He is very dedicated. He made a commitment do to a little bit more offseason wrestling, and it's paying off. Last year, he was a light 170. This year, he's a heavier 170."
Boys' Latin might be strongest in the lower weights with Lee-Lermer, Malinowski, senior Hunter Cotsoradis (120-126, 12-3), a four-year starter, and Malinowski's twin brother, Nate (138, 11-5).
Lee-Lermer and Nick Malinowski are practice partners.
"Kahlan only weighed a 105 pounds last year," Haugh said of Lee-Lermer, who went 17-16 last season. "He had to wrestle up against bigger guys at 113. But Kahlan has gotten bigger and stronger this year."
Nick Malinowski is the team's most highly regarded wrestler.
He won 39 matches last year and three tournaments, including being named Outstanding Wrestler at Overlea Invitational.
Malinowski was also picked as the Outstanding Wrestler at the Knightmare Tournament this season.
"He is a not a year-round wrestler," Haugh said. "He also plays soccer. But this truly is his love. He has a passion for it above and beyond a lot of other kids. The last two years he has proven that."
The Lakers' lineup also features freshmen Evan Gaines (132) and Alec Blume (182, 9-5) and juniors Anthony Wyler (152, 6-0), Rocco Bruno (160, 18-4), and Nick Mortan (195-220).
"They have some nice wrestlers," Calvert Hall coach Roy Lobdell said. "They are a well-drilled team and they execute."
Boys' Latin started 3-0 in the league, beating Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 66-12, Gilman, 46-27, and Calvert Hall, 37-36.
The win over the Cardinals could be the most dramatic of the season as Howell scored a match-ending pin in his season debut to help the Lakers rally past the hosts.
But the competition gets much tougher when the Lakers face league rivals Loyola Blakefield, McDonogh and John Carroll.
"We have three of the bigger boys left on the schedule so to speak," Haugh said.