Mars made huge waves at the WPIAL and PIAA championships last season and return most of their squads.
Both the boys and girls squads impressed at the state meet, led by Maggie Gruber, who won WPIAL and state titles in both the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.
Athletes will be looking to make a charge at her and Mars coach Heidi Brandon knows it.
“It keeps her motivated,” Brandon said. “She was a freshman who got kids out. Last year, she had a phenomenal meet and was named the MVP. It was based on two girls winning two individual events.
“It will be more difficult to repeat with young swimmers coming up. She knows it will be a bit difficult. She will definitely have her work cut out for her.”
That’s fine because for Gruber, who has four WPIAL and four PIAA titles to her name, that’s not the most important part of her demeanor.
“She already has under her belt her college choice (Virginia Tech),” Brandon said. “She likes to motivate her teammates. She doesn’t want to make the season about her. It’s about the team.”
Coach: Heidi Brandon, sixth year
2011-12 record: Girls 5-1 in section); Boys (3-3 in the section)
Key returners:Girls — Seniors Maggie Gruber (butterfly, backstroke) and Phoebe Pierre (500 free, utility); juniors Amanda Alikhani (distance); Jessica Ott (distance) and Caroline Pacey (freestyle); sophomores Nicole Parrish (butterfly, IM) and Torrey Shields (50 back, 50 free)
Boys — Juniors Chris Georgiadis (distance medley, IM) and Tommy Pierre (distance, breaststroke); sophomores Francis Folz (freestyle) and Reed McDonough (freestyle)
Coach’s comment: “We only lost one senior and our girls relays all made it to states. Our expectations is to make it to state and make the night shift.
“We had five boys last year and this year we have six. Last year, they learned by the end of the year — all of them swam for different ‘Y’ teams — that at the state meet, you need to work together as a team instead of competing against each other.
“They got in the pool this year, looked at each other and said, ‘Yeah, we’re there.’”
Coach: Brian Blackwell, second year
2011-12 record: Boys and Girls (both 6-5 overall)
Key returners: Girls — Seniors Katie Miller (sprints, freestyle, backstroke), Katie Burkett (freestyle) and Maddie Tretter (butterfly, IM); junior Carley Belsterling (breaststroke)
Boys — Senior Ryan Cwik (butterfly); juniors Michael Rhein (middle distance, distance), Jake Fausti (sprint freestyle) and Dan Barnes (IM, breaststroke)
Coach’s comment: “I think the big thing for the girls is we’ll try to be better than last year’s record. We will lose five seniors after this year so the big thing for them is to lead the way and show the younger kids what team is all about.
“We have a freshman, Spencer Tretter, who comes in with WPIAL qualifying times already. We have high expectations for him. ... (Cwik) leads by example. He sets the standard on how the boys team should be.”
Mars was 13-6 in duals and was anchored by freshman Richie Boeh (25-5). Boeh will be at 126 pounds in this his sophomore season. Ryan McMahon was a 20-win wrestler for the Planets last year and will be at 160 this year.
Zach Maisner, an assistant coach under Ray Machusko last season, takes over the head reins. Machusko will be his assistant.
“All of our guys are coming back and that’s huge for us,” Maisner said. “We finished third in the section last year and made the WPIAL team playoffs. We definitely want to do that again.”
Seneca Valley (4-11 last year) sent five wrestlers to the WPIAL meet and all five were underclassmen. They include Nick Zoria (23-8), Brennen O’Shea (13-8), Austin Leon (22-9), Tyler Schillero (15-12) and Jacob Eaton (10-20).
“We’re gaining experience and that’s important,” second-year Raider coach Kevin Wildrick said. “Our guys who went to WPIALs last year got over the hump that way. The nervousness of being at such a big tournament will be gone now. ”
Prospective Lineups Mars
106-Matt Hulak (Fr.); 113-Noah Kohl (Fr.); 120-Silas Bender (So.); 126-Richie Boeh (So.) 25-5; 132-Drew Schultheis (Sr.) 10-8; 138-Chris Lorch (So.) 8-11, 145-Ryan Barnes (Fr.); 152-Andy Selker (Sr.) 14-11; 160-Ryan McMahon (Sr.) 20-15; 170-Alex Grosso (Jr.) 14-11; 182-Nathan Bair (Jr.) 16-14; 195-Jeremy Hughes (So.); 220-Johan zan Wik (Sr.) 12-10; HWT-Trey Turnblazer (Jr.) 16-10
106-Alex or Ben Lynch (Fr.); 113-Same; 120-Nick Zoria (Jr.) 23-8; 126-Zane Skalos (Jr.); 132-Seth Schiever (Jr.); 138-Brennen O’Shea (Jr.) 13-8; 145-Austin Leon (So.) 22-9; 152-Tyler Schillero Sr.) 15-12; 160-Stephen Rudolph (Jr.); 170-Brad Hensler (So.); 182-Jake Eaton (Sr.) 10-20; 195-John Proper (Jr.); 220-Tyler Miller (Jr.); HWT-Brady Moore (So.)