There's a new wrestling coach in South Jersey, and the team he has taken over comes with great expectations by fans and critics, as well as the extraordinary group of wrestlers themselves.
Wayne Murschell is at the helm of an Eastern team that disappointed many last season when the Vikings, with two state champions and other accomplished wrestlers, failed even to win a sectional title after going 23-6.
Injuries and eligibility issues prevented Eastern from reaching its potential under coach Gary Worthington, who resigned after seven years.
In addition, the team took criticism because some top-notch wrestlers - members of the same wrestling club - transferred there from other schools.
Now, Eastern returns to the mats with a potent lineup that includes three state champions, something almost unimaginable to most teams and coaches, especially Murschell, who has been out of wrestling for the last six years and comes from a small program.
When the former Pitman head coach was asked if he felt pressure to win with the Eastern talent he has, Murschell said: "Let the chips fall where they may. I learned that from [former] Delsea coach Steve Iles. He prepared his kids so well in the practice room that he barely yelled on the mat.
"My philosophy is to have well-rounded individuals, respectable people, disciplined and well-drilled, and let the chips fall where they may."
To go along with the mantra of his mentor, a member of the South Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame, Murschell has brought in four assistants with different perspectives to broaden the knowledge of his athletes.
One of the coaches is Bobby Stinson, a former Camden Catholic state titlist. He's also the brother of senior Hank Stinson, who won a state crown for Eastern at 135 pounds as a sophomore.
The younger Stinson's best friend, senior Anthony Baldosaro, a Delsea transfer, is the two-time state champion at 140. A state champion at 112 last season, junior Robert Deutsch rounds out the terrific trio.
Stinson failed last season to realize his dream of back-to-back state titles because of injuries that limited him to 10 bouts, eight of which he won. He sat out the sectional and state tournaments.
This season, the threesome would like nothing more than to reap crowns not only as individuals, but also for the team.
"They're ticked off because they didn't perform to their potential [as a team] last year," Murschell said. "They have a little chip on their shoulder."
The coach may have been away from the sport for a half dozen years. However, he returns with knowledge and a pedigree.
Murschell guided Pitman to an 85-42 record from 1996 to 2003. He had one state champion, Keros Cooper, and his teams won the Tri-County championship four times.
A four-time district champion at Pitman, from which he graduated in 1987, Murschell also wrestled at George Mason. His father, also named Wayne, is a former wrestling coach and athletic director at Pitman.
Murschell's hiatus from wrestling began with a golf- bag business that he and his wife, Keri, started in 2003. They have two children, Mary Kate, 6, and Matthew, 4.
Murschell continued to teach physical education in Pitman's elementary-school system during his absence from the wrestling room.
Now he's teaching physical education at Eastern.
"I feel alive again," Murschell said he told his wife after the team's first practice.
He'll know just how alive he is as the Vikings grapple with a tough schedule that will be closely followed by the South Jersey wrestling community.