The River Pilots made an early season statement when they captured the team title at the Doan Ford Barnesville Invitational.
Unfortunately, for head coach Eric Rosen and company, the injury bug has taken a bite out of the Pilots since then.
"That (win at Barnesville) has been the high point of the season," Rosen said. "We've had injuries and some other issues that are keeping guys out of the lineup, but our goals remain the same."
The Pilots expect to be as close to 100 percent as they've been since early December this weekend when the 61st annual Ron Mauck OVAC Wrestling Tournament opens at WesBanco Arena Thursday evening.
"For the most part, we'll be healthy," Rosen said. "The biggest issue for us is making up for the lost mat time and our conditioning. We're going to go over and do the best we can."
The Pilots captured the OVAC 3A Tournament title and eventually won the dual crown as well last season, but they've since dropped back down to 2A, which is a very deep field, according to Rosen.
"We hope to be competitive," Rosen said. "If we had everyone healthy and performing like we did early in the season, I think it could have been a really competitive race. It's going to be a dogfight because I know Shadyside, Caldwell and Toronto all have solid teams."
Rosen believes he has a handful of wrestlers who should be in the thick of a chase of a place, but continually stresses that wrestling is a team sport.
"Last year, it came down to everyone having to win matches," Rosen said. "Obviously, it's an individual sport to an extent, but the (consolation) matches are important. Plus, we tell our kids pin to win because you need the maximum amount of points out of each match."
On top of their showing at Barnesville, the Pilots have put together a 5-3 dual record. They also took part in the Shadyside Invitational earlier this month, finishing eighth despite missing several competitors with injuries.
"Even with the minor injuries, the season has been fun," Rosen said. "We have seven seniors, who are the leaders of our team and they're doing a good job."
Despite having 24 on the roster, the Pilots will only fill 12 of the 14 weight classes this weekend. The Pilots will lack an entrant at 106 and 113.
"We're going to need guys to step up and be competitive this weekend," Rosen said.
The Pilots will led into the OVAC by senior Brett Rosen at 195 pounds. A cousin of the head coach, Rosen was the champion at Shadyside and runnerup at Barnesville. That loss is his only setback of the season. He was sixth in the OVAC last year.
"Brett's done well," Rosen said. "He sets the example in the weight room and in the practice room. He's earned everything he's gotten."
Senior Dakota Dunn is off to an 11-4 start this season. He owns a second-place finish at Barnesville and fourth-place medal at Shadyside. He edged out Brandon Reusser in a wrestle off for the 182-pound spot.
Senior Kole Smith gets the call at 170 pounds. He was the champion at Barnesville and fourth at Shadyside after suffering an injury. He was a district qualifier last season.
"Kole is one of the captains and leaders of our team," Rosen pointed out. "He works hard and is a good role model for our younger guys."
Senior Jordan Sapp is a "sleeper" at 160 pounds, according to his head coach. Sapp is 12-3 on the season and finished with a bronze medal at Barnesville.
Junior Loren Thomas has been solid at 132. He was third at Barnesville and is a competitor that Rosen thinks "can come out of nowhere" to steal a place.
"Loren can really turn it out and surprise some people, but 132 is a tough weight class," Rosen continued.
Sophomore Chase Schultheis is 7-7 at 120 pounds. Junior Josh Stewart holds down the fort at 126 pounds. He's 7-6 on the season.
Senior Bailey Reusser is 7-6 and will enter at 138 pounds, while senior Chase Young is 4-2 and has battled back from some injuries at 145 pounds.
Junior Michael Taylor is entered at 152. He's a first-year wrestler.
Two freshmen - Collin Huffman and Broc Miracle - are battling in 220 and 285 pounds, respectively.
"Getting our kids in a position on the bracket to win a few matches will be critical for us," Rosen said.
After the OVAC, the Pilots host their own invitational, compete in the Beallsville Invitational, OHSAA Duals, OVAC Duals and then the postseason.
Graduation claimed only J.D. Dotson, who placed fifth in both the OVAC and state toutnament, and Hank Goebel.
The balance of the Pilots roster includes: Matthew Alleman, Tucker Boggs, Oliver Cummins, a foreign exchange student from Denmark; Jonah Danver, Beau Harden, Hunter Harris, Luke Matusik, Nathan Rainey and Dakota Smith.
Rosen's coaching staff is comprised of Chuck Baker, John Talbott, Paden Stewart and Eric Stephens.