They've taken it, and now they're ready to dish it out.
The Lakeside High School wrestling squad begins the 2002-03 season this week, and 16 team members also played football for Lakeside this fall.
After suffering through a winless campaign on the gridiron, there are some angry Panthers ready to deliver pay back on the wrestling mat.
"That may be true. I think they're really looking forward to wrestling season," Lakeside wrestling coach Randy Hill said.
Though Hill will have to wait until next year to earn his first victory as Lakeside's head football coach, wrestling success should help him pass the time. Hill coached the Panthers to the Region 3-AAAA title last season, and Lakeside looks primed for a repeat.
"I think we'll have a real good team. We've got a good balance in all of the weight classes," Hill said. "We lost four seniors, but we have some younger guys with a lot of experience."
Justin Otis leads Lakeside this season. He placed third in the state as a junior last year, and should make a run at a Class AAAA championship this season in his weight class. Otis has not settled on a specific slot, but will wrestle in one of the classes between 160 to 171 lbs.
Other top Panthers are Tanner Richards (heavyweight division), Sam Jasinski (189 lb.), J.P. Dixon (140-145), Tim Mitchem (119) and Mike Ingham (130).
Lakeside's wrestling schedule this season is loaded with top-notch tournaments, including a trip later this month to Mason, Ohio, for the Holiday Classic.
First, though, the Panthers will protect their home turf in the Black Cat Invitational, a 12-team double elimination event this Friday and Saturday at Lakeside. The action begins Friday at 7 p.m., and continues Saturday at 9 a.m.
West Laurens returns to defend its Black Cat title, while Evans and Greenbrier also are in the field.
Lakeside placed second in the Black Cat last year, and although Hill would like to see his team improve on that showing, he's looking at the bigger picture.
"Winning the Black Cat would be great, but wrestling is a little different than football, because you don't depend on the outcome of every single game," Hill said. "In wrestling you use every match as a stepping stone to build confidence. That's why you want to get the wrestlers into as many matches as possible."
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