There was a tempered nature, it seemed, to Jersey Shore's celebration of its first District 4 duals title since 2006.
Hugs were shared, joyous phone calls were made and celebratory text messages were sent. It was a lively scene at Milton High School on Saturday, but there was a taboo topic nobody wanted to really seem to get in depth in talking about.
Can't blame them. It was a buzzkill of a topic. But for as exciting as it was for the Bulldogs to win the District 4 title, it meant there was a far greater challenge lying ahead of them.
The PIAA Class AAA Duals tournament is one of the toughest dual-meet tournaments in the country. This year's version features three teams ranked in the top 30 in the country - two of which are on Jersey Shore's side of the bracket - including fifth-ranked Canon McMillan.
It also features nine wrestlers ranked in the top 20 in the country in their respective weight classes. Of the 20 teams ranked in the state in Class AAA by pennsylvaniawrestlingrankings.com, none of them are named Jersey Shore.
"Our guys know it's going to be a challenge," Jersey Shore head coach Shawn Weaver said. "With that bracket, it doesn't matter who you wrestle, you're getting someone tough. You just have to go down and compete, wrestle hard and see what happens. We really just have to wrestle the way we've been wrestling and let things fall as they may."
The gauntlet the Bulldogs are going to encounter begins with a first-round matchup against District 12 champion LaSalle College on Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey. The explorers have just two state-ranked wrestlers in their lineup, but they are returning PIAA third-place finisher Matt Cimato at 145 pounds, and three-time state qualifier and past bronze medalist Casey Kent at 152 pounds.
But it's nothing the Bulldogs are shying away from. In fact, this challenge is exactly what they wanted when they set the goal of getting to Hershey prior to the season.
The likelihood of many of the Jersey Shore wrestlers to get to Hershey for the individual tournament isn't very high with having to go through the meat-grinder Northeast Regional tournament. This tournament is going to give them a taste of that atmosphere.
"We're losing a lot of seniors next year, so it's probably going to be tough for us to do this again," Shore's Kaiden Brungard said. "For me, personally, I'm really going to enjoy this. I might not be able to ever go again."
Jersey Shore proved to be the best team during Saturday's district tournament, but it may also have been the most prepared of the three teams in the tournament to compete on a statewide level. The Bulldogs sport a tough stretch from 138 pounds to 170 pounds - as Selinsgrove found out in the district final.
And aside from those wrestlers, it's a lineup that is tough and balanced. Given the opportunity, any of the Bulldogs' 14 starters can win a bout.
"Shikellamy has done a great job of going down there in the past and winning matches," Weaver said. "That gives us confidence that we can compete outside our area as well. I think our guys understand that."
It surely won't be easy. And that's just fine with Jersey Shore.