With a deep and talent-filled lineup, Malvern Prep's wrestling program is making major strides this season. The Friars are 9-0 in dual meets and ranked No. 8 in the country by InterMat.com.

"Because of the guys returning from last year's group, I expected us to be a top 10 team," senior heavyweight Seth Janney said. "We've lived up to that so far. But we have to continue to work hard."

Malvern's primary goals, certainly within reach because of its across-the-board hammers, are winning state prep and national titles.

The Friars placed second to Northeastern Pennsylvania powerhouse Wyoming Seminary in states last year. They took third, behind Wyoming Seminary and champion Blair Academy (N.J.), in nationals.

"I would love to win states," Malvern coach Nate Lauter said. "We want to dethrone Wyoming Seminary. I think we're capable of doing that. As far as nationals go, it would be great to finish in the top two or three."

Lauter, 36, shone on the mat at Malvern in the mid-1990s (he won state preps as a junior at 215 pounds) and then wrestled for one year at Franklin and Marshall.

"I sort of regret not continuing with it," he said. "But it became more of a job for me in college. It wasn't the same as high school. Also, I wanted to concentrate on my academics."

Lauter first became involved in coaching with the Marple Newtown Youth Club, which switched to Tiger Elite, and is now at Malvern Prep Youth Wrestling. The club draws wrestlers from near and far, many of whom opt to attend Malvern for high school.

Lauter said Michael Beard, a junior ranked No. 1 in the country at 182 by InterMat, has been "with the program since he was 7 years old. He's really matured over the years."

Beard went 55-3 and won state and national prep crowns last season. The Northwestern recruit claimed gold at 85 kg at the Pan American Cadet Championships in Peru last July.

Beard triumphed at two prestigious tournaments, the Walsh Ironman in Ohio and the 24th annual Beast of the East at Delaware's Carpenter Center.

"He's really motivated, he's solid on his feat, and he's a beast on top," Lauter said.

Janney transferred from South Western High in York County before last school year. A PIAA Class 3A state runner-up as a sophomore at 220, he wanted to wrestle and play football, as a two-way end, for the Friars.

Janney, who moved up this season from 220 to 285, was first at Beast of the East and fourth at Ironman.

"It's a lot different being a heavyweight," said the 6-3, 235-pounder from West Chester. "I sometimes face kids 50 pounds heavier than me. I have to use good technique, quickness, and smarts to win the match."

Janney, who is ranked No. 9 in the country, is bound for Cornell. The Big Red are ranked No. 8 among NCAA Division I squads.

"The sky is the limit for him," Lauter said. "He's going to be an absolute machine when he gets to college and grows into his body."

Malvern's other stalwarts are juniors Ryan Karoly (170), Mark Salvatore (120), P.J. Crane (138), Chris Hisey (145), and Micah Visuwan (132), sophomores Shane Hanson-Ashworth (113) and Nick Florschutz (170/182), and freshman Dalton Harkins (106).

Karoly, who is ranked No. 5 in the country, will join Beard at Northwestern; Hanson-Ashworth placed fifth at Beast of the East; and Florschutz, who was slowed in the fall because of an injury, took seventh at national preps last year.