Great expectations can often be a heavy burden for scholastic wrestlers.

Some wilt away under the hot spotlight. Others find a way to channel the pressure in a positive way to accomplish their ultimate goal.

Minutes after watching Anthony Trongone suffer a heart-wrenching loss in last year's state final, Camden Catholic coach Pete DiPol told a group of reporters that Trongone was a lock to win a state title in 2007.

"You can print it," DiPol said.

Saddled with the ultimate of expectations, Trongone delivered on his coach's prediction on March 4 when he captured the 171-pound title with a 4-2 victory over Ocean Township's Kyle Kiss.

Trongone completed the season with a school-record 40-2 mark and finished with 108 career wins - earning The Inquirer's South Jersey wrestler of the year award for the senior.

"Anthony was a man on a mission this year," DiPol said. "I truly believed what I said [in 2006] because I knew what type of wrestler and what type of person Anthony is.

"He had what it takes to be a state champion - the work ethic, the relentless style, and the confidence to achieve."

Trongone just laughed when he was reminded about the strong words DiPol uttered last year.

"He guaranteed it, just like Joe Namath," Trongone said. "It didn't put any more pressure on me at all. In fact, it made me stronger. [Coach DiPol] believed in me."

The road to the top step of the podium wasn't without some bumps along with way.

Trongone suffered a loss at the grueling, season-opening St. Edward's Elite 8 Tournament. But nothing would prepare him for what occurred in the first weekend of January.

Trongone learned that his workout partner and friend, 152-pounder Dustin Deckard, was transferring to Pennsville. Hours later, Trongone absorbed a 5-1 loss to Kiss in a regular-season bout.

"I wasn't completely focused, and it cost me," Trongone said. "I was very passive in that match, but I learned from it."

Trongone regrouped and won his next 31 matches, including a third District 28 title, a second Region 7 title, and the ultimate reward - a state crown.

As he climbed to the top step in the awards ceremony, Trongone thought back to all the work he put into the sport and soaked up the entire atmosphere.

"I can't describe that feeling standing up there, it was such a natural high. It was awesome, something I will never forget," he said.

Trongone is ready for the next step, too. He will compete at Virginia Tech next season - a stiff challenge that DiPol says Trongone will attack like all of the others he has faced.

"Anthony will be just fine," DiPol said. "He has that drive that all successful wrestlers must have to compete at the next level."

Wrestling had always been a huge part of Trongone's life. His father, Tony, wrestled and later coached at Northern Burlington.

Tony introduced the sport to his son when he was just 4 years old. The Trongones' basement became the workout room, where gallons of sweat poured out and thousands of technique drills were taught.

It didn't take long for Trongone to map out his final destination - the top step of the podium at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.

After a successful run in the midgets, Trongone's scholastic career often mirrored the steps of a podium.

He missed his freshman season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. As a sophomore, Trongone broke into the vaunted Irish lineup and accumulated 31 wins, including his first district title.

Trongone established himself as one of the area's elite in 2006. Despite missing time with a dislocated elbow, he rolled to district and regional titles and was one of the favorites to win at states.

He advanced to the final, where he lost a 3-2 decision to Cranford's Pat Hogan.

In his final three years, Camden Catholic went 84-9 with three non-public state titles and three district team banners.

All-South Jersey Wrestling

FIRST TEAM

Wt.   Name                   Record   School             Class

103    Sean Boylan         39-3       Holy Spirit           Fr.

112    Dan Hughes          39-3       Delran.              Sr.

119    Jose Matos             40-4       St. Augustine        Sr.

125    Anthony Luma          37-1       Egg Harbor Twp.    Soph.

130    Ricky Bailey          39-6       Palmyra.           Sr.

135    Anthony Baldasaro    39-5       Delsea              Fr.

140    Scott Wear             35-3       Clayton             Sr.

145    Jackson Brady       38-8       Camden Cath.       Soph.

152    Dustin Deckard      34-4       Pennsville.          Jr

160    Ken Wilkerson         35-5       Cherokee          Sr.

171    Anthony Trongone    40-2       Camden Cath.       Sr.

189    Mac Mancuso          35-3,       Holy Spirit          Soph.

215    Alex Silvestro          42-1       Paulsboro          Sr.

Hwt.   Demitrius Hester       42-1       Paulsboro          Sr..

SECOND TEAM

Wt.   Name                   Record   School            Class

103   Mike Tully             31-10      Camden Cath.      Soph.

112    Anthony Curcio       37-5      Washington Twp.   Soph.

119   Luke Fedechko       35-7      Delsea             Soph.

125    Hank Stinson          39-5      Eastern            Fr.

130    Andrew Carthan       37-7      Delran            Sr.

135    Jake Sweezy         38-5      Delran            Sr.

140    Andrew Hessert       39-7      Haddonfield      Sr.

145    Preston Keiffer          37-3      Eastern            Fr.

152    Kirk Kiriazis             38-5      Maple Shade      Sr.

160    Geoff Bauma          37-7      N. Burlington      Sr.

171    Tom Macauley          33-9      Kingsway         Sr.

189    Brendon Griffin       30-3      Riverside         Sr.

215    Mitch Sparks          10-6      Cinnaminson      Sr.

Hwt.    Justin Embler          36-5      Cinnaminson       Jr.

EndText

Contact writer Tom McGurk

at 215-854-5721

or tmcgurk@phillynews.com

.