The Potomac Falls High School wrestling team appears to be immune to growing pains. Building on a breakthrough second season last year, the Panthers seem poised to claim the AA Northwestern District title. Their victory last weekend in the Elks Classic at Warren County further showcased the Panthers' promise.

Entering the final round down 12 points, Potomac Falls rallied to beat the host school, 172-169. The Panthers placed 10 of 13 wrestlers in the top three in their weight classes, headlined by event champions Eric Ceglowski (125 pounds), Eric Bardey (130) and Mark Panchura (heavyweight).

Other Northwestern District schools participating were Fauquier (finished third with 141.5 points) and Handley (fifth, 131.5).

"This certainly gets us in the right direction for the district tournament," Potomac Falls Coach Kris Kelican said. "It was a real good win for us."

Not only are the Panthers wrestling at the level of district champions, but come tournament time (Feb. 19 at Broad Run), they may not have much competition. Potomac Falls is the only team in the district with a winning overall record.

The Panthers (4-0 Northwestern District, 9-7 overall) increased their victory total from three in 1997-98 to 14 last year, and with six weeks to go this season, are capable of setting a new standard again.

The three champions from last week--along with 189-pounder Sean Merritt, who finished third--"have really been our stars," Kelican said. Their combined record thus far is 75-16. Bardey, a defending district champion, is 21-1, and Panchura has won 14 of his last 15 matches.