Potomac Falls High School wrestler Eric Bardey hates to lose.

He'll tell you that. Potomac Falls Coach Kris Kelican will tell you that, as will Bardey's coach during his two years at Park View, Greg Mitchell.

"That's why I push myself so hard," Bardey said. "Because I know I have to want it more than anyone else or I'm going to lose."

Bardey is the biggest reason why the Panthers are unbeaten in five AA Northwestern District matches this year and 10-7 overall.

"Eric is one of the most intense wrestlers I have ever been around," Kelican said. "He has stepped up and become a leader on this team."

He also is a perfectionist: The 130-pounder is the first to practice each day, and he's quicker to tell you about what he did wrong in his one loss than what he did right in his 22 wins.

"I made a mistake . . . . I had the match won; I was winning on the scoreboard and everything," he said, still thinking about being pinned by Colonial Forge's Jason Jurek earlier this season. "I'm still upset about it. I should be undefeated right now."

As a senior, Bardey, 17, knows he's down to his final chance on the mat. He's been to the state tournament the past two years and wasn't close to placing. He knows the time is now, and it will never come again.

Bardey knows how he wants this year to end off the mat, as well. A student with a 3.1 grade-point average who scored 1,260 on the Scholastic Assessment Test, Bardey plans to major in biology at either James Madison University or Virginia Tech (though he is unsure whether he will pursue wrestling).

However, two years ago, no one knew what the future had in store for Bardey--not even Bardey himself. As a sophomore on the Park View wrestling team, he caved to peer pressure and went along with some seniors and was among those caught pulling a senior prank. For his role, he was "involuntarily transferred" to Potomac Falls before his junior year.

His days at Park View, as well of any chance to be the best wrestler in the school's history, were over.

"He would have been the best wrestler we've ever had," Mitchell said. "Our loss was definitely Potomac Falls's gain. Eric is a great kid. He made one mistake, and he's learned from it. He's going to be successful in whatever he does."

After talking to Kelican, Bardey came out for the wrestling team, and since the school has been open for only three years, he very easily could leave as the program's most decorated wrestler.

"He has been a role model since he came here--both academically and athletically," Kelican said. "He's the type of kid that's going to succeed, no question about it."