1. Will surprise starters show up in the starting 10, and will their weight classes surprise?
2. Is this the toughest schedule in the program's storied history?
3. Are they finally looking for medals more meaningful than Southern Conference gold?
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team begins full workouts today, and Dean Pavlou already is coping with the fact that this will be his last as an active Mocs competitor.
He has gone from follower to leader while becoming a more accomplished wrestler and a stronger person. He has learned to persevere and redouble his efforts, especially after spending most of his junior season as a benched Southern Conference runner-up.
"I love to compete and I hated somebody having a [starting] spot I thought was mine," Pavlou said. "I trained harder. I guess I was stubborn, but that whole situation was a blessing. It strengthened my resolve and my dedication."
Because of that resolve, the former Bradley Central High School standout regained the Mocs' 149-pound slot and then won the Southern Conference title for that weight class.
The wisdom gained hasn't been lost.
"This year it's not 'beat this guy and go to the SoCon [tournament].' I want to go to the national tournament, beat people I'm maybe not supposed to beat and leave a lasting impression," Pavlou said.
That mindset along with his attention to academics and his personal and social life led Mocs coach Heath Eslinger to say Pavlou was the model he and his coaching staff want to bring to UTC.
"He's the total package," the coach said. "He's a worker, he's a great teammate, he's a great student and he has a great reputation on campus. He sets a great example from team meetings to the classroom.
"He's had a good career, but I don't think he's satisfied with that. He wants a great career and he's doing every little thing to give himself a chance."
Pavlou was dumbstruck to hear about Eslinger's remarks.
"That's a huge compliment, coming from him. I consider him my mentor, and he has become a big role model in my life," said Pavlou, acknowledging that he wasn't the same silly kid who enrolled at UTC in 2008.
"I feel self-sufficient. I make up my bed every day and clean up my apartment. I go to bed at 10 p.m. and get up at 5 a.m. I'm smarter about my social life," he said. "It feels good to do the right things, to make A's on tests, to volunteer in the community, to clean house. As small as those things sound, they have become important parts of my life."
They are part of the evolution he believes will carry him to an NCAA tournament medal and identify him the rest of his life.