"We're looking really good," said Rai, after serving as an assistant coach with the Panthers for two years. "Participation is huge right now. We usually don't have a lot of guys at this point. But not counting any of our football guys who wrestle, currently we have 35 wrestlers. That's a lot of guys."
Rai said the bigger the squad, the better.
"It's a small army," he said. "It's a good thing. The more guys at each weight you have battling makes for good wrestlers. Competition breeds champions."
Leading the pack is senior Matt Fregoso, who at weight class 127 is one of the top wrestlers in the San Gabriel Valley.
"(Fregoso's) a two-time defending CIF champion, two-time state qualifier and he was one win away from placing in the state last year," Rai said. "He's one of the few pure true athletes at the school. He's one of the few kid wrestlers we have and that makes a world of difference."
Also leading the Panthers at 132 is junior Ryan Maldonado. Rai said he expects big things from him.
"He's (in his) second year as a captain," Rai said of Maldonado. "If you're going to reward someone with that respect, it's a tribute to their dedication, not just as a wrestler, but as a student athlete."
But Rai didn't stop there with his praise of Maldonado.
"He's ferocious on the mat," Rai said. "The experience he gained last year will carry over. Last year, he was in an underdog role. This year, he's in a favorite role. He busted his tail all year in the weight room, on the mat and on the track and is in great shape."
Maldonado said he's learned a lot about life from wrestling.
"Wrestling has taught me so much about respect, leadership and has kept me out of a lot of trouble," he said.
Another wrestler to watch for, Rai said, is junior Albert Flores at 135.
"(Flores is) a returning CIF placer," Rai said. "He was first-team, all-area in the San Gabriel Valley. He's a phenomenal wrestler. He knocked out a couple of ranked guys at the Master's Tournament, which is a big CIF Southern Section tournament. We're hoping he can win every tournament he goes to."
So, what's the goal for the Panthers this season?
"Anything less than a (Mission Valley League) championship would be a big disappointment," Rai said. "If we have a good CIF championship season, we could walk away with rings."
In addition, Rosemead will be hosting the annual West Coast Classic Dec. 17 and 18.