Great expectations can often be a heavy burden for scholastic wrestlers.
Some wilt away under the hot spotlight. Others find a way to channel the pressure in a positive way to accomplish their ultimate goal.
Minutes after watching Anthony Trongone suffer a heart-wrenching loss in last year's state final, Camden Catholic coach Pete DiPol told a group of reporters that Trongone was a lock to win a state title in 2007.
"You can print it," DiPol said.
Saddled with the ultimate of expectations, Trongone delivered on his coach's prediction on March 4 when he captured the 171-pound title with a 4-2 victory over Ocean Township's Kyle Kiss.
Trongone completed the season with a school-record 40-2 mark and finished with 108 career wins - earning The Inquirer's South Jersey wrestler of the year award for the senior.
"Anthony was a man on a mission this year," DiPol said. "I truly believed what I said [in 2006] because I knew what type of wrestler and what type of person Anthony is.
"He had what it takes to be a state champion - the work ethic, the relentless style, and the confidence to achieve."
Trongone just laughed when he was reminded about the strong words DiPol uttered last year.
"He guaranteed it, just like Joe Namath," Trongone said. "It didn't put any more pressure on me at all. In fact, it made me stronger. [Coach DiPol] believed in me."
The road to the top step of the podium wasn't without some bumps along with way.
Trongone suffered a loss at the grueling, season-opening St. Edward's Elite 8 Tournament. But nothing would prepare him for what occurred in the first weekend of January.
Trongone learned that his workout partner and friend, 152-pounder Dustin Deckard, was transferring to Pennsville. Hours later, Trongone absorbed a 5-1 loss to Kiss in a regular-season bout.
"I wasn't completely focused, and it cost me," Trongone said. "I was very passive in that match, but I learned from it."
Trongone regrouped and won his next 31 matches, including a third District 28 title, a second Region 7 title, and the ultimate reward - a state crown.
As he climbed to the top step in the awards ceremony, Trongone thought back to all the work he put into the sport and soaked up the entire atmosphere.
"I can't describe that feeling standing up there, it was such a natural high. It was awesome, something I will never forget," he said.
Trongone is ready for the next step, too. He will compete at Virginia Tech next season - a stiff challenge that DiPol says Trongone will attack like all of the others he has faced.
"Anthony will be just fine," DiPol said. "He has that drive that all successful wrestlers must have to compete at the next level."
Wrestling had always been a huge part of Trongone's life. His father, Tony, wrestled and later coached at Northern Burlington.
Tony introduced the sport to his son when he was just 4 years old. The Trongones' basement became the workout room, where gallons of sweat poured out and thousands of technique drills were taught.
It didn't take long for Trongone to map out his final destination - the top step of the podium at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
After a successful run in the midgets, Trongone's scholastic career often mirrored the steps of a podium.
He missed his freshman season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. As a sophomore, Trongone broke into the vaunted Irish lineup and accumulated 31 wins, including his first district title.
Trongone established himself as one of the area's elite in 2006. Despite missing time with a dislocated elbow, he rolled to district and regional titles and was one of the favorites to win at states.
He advanced to the final, where he lost a 3-2 decision to Cranford's Pat Hogan.
In his final three years, Camden Catholic went 84-9 with three non-public state titles and three district team banners.
Wt. Name Record School Class
103 Sean Boylan 39-3 Holy Spirit Fr.
112 Dan Hughes 39-3 Delran. Sr.
119 Jose Matos 40-4 St. Augustine Sr.
125 Anthony Luma 37-1 Egg Harbor Twp. Soph.
130 Ricky Bailey 39-6 Palmyra. Sr.
135 Anthony Baldasaro 39-5 Delsea Fr.
140 Scott Wear 35-3 Clayton Sr.
145 Jackson Brady 38-8 Camden Cath. Soph.
152 Dustin Deckard 34-4 Pennsville. Jr
160 Ken Wilkerson 35-5 Cherokee Sr.
171 Anthony Trongone 40-2 Camden Cath. Sr.
189 Mac Mancuso 35-3, Holy Spirit Soph.
215 Alex Silvestro 42-1 Paulsboro Sr.
Hwt. Demitrius Hester 42-1 Paulsboro Sr..
Wt. Name Record School Class
103 Mike Tully 31-10 Camden Cath. Soph.
112 Anthony Curcio 37-5 Washington Twp. Soph.
119 Luke Fedechko 35-7 Delsea Soph.
125 Hank Stinson 39-5 Eastern Fr.
130 Andrew Carthan 37-7 Delran Sr.
135 Jake Sweezy 38-5 Delran Sr.
140 Andrew Hessert 39-7 Haddonfield Sr.
145 Preston Keiffer 37-3 Eastern Fr.
152 Kirk Kiriazis 38-5 Maple Shade Sr.
160 Geoff Bauma 37-7 N. Burlington Sr.
171 Tom Macauley 33-9 Kingsway Sr.
189 Brendon Griffin 30-3 Riverside Sr.
215 Mitch Sparks 10-6 Cinnaminson Sr.
Hwt. Justin Embler 36-5 Cinnaminson Jr.