BRENTWOOD -- After a recent hard-fought victory on the wrestling mat for Liberty High School, Devin Lyle sported a small spot of blood on the bandage above his right eye, and two small pieces of cotton wadding protruded slightly from each nostril. But it was the look of a winner.
Lyle, a three-time North Coast Section medalist, had just defeated longtime friend and practice partner Ricky Coster of Freedom 4-1 at 138 pounds in the Lions' dual match victory. He said it won't be the only time the two are likely to tangle in the next four weeks.
"We'll probably wrestle again at league, and maybe NCS," Lyle said. "It'll be a constant battle."
Their collision course may begin this weekend in the Mission San Jose Invitational, Friday and Saturday, in Fremont. Liberty coach Greg Chappell and Freedom coach John Parsons are each putting a full lineup into the tournament, one of the most prestigious in Northern California and considered the unofficial start to local high school wrestling's postseason.
Lyle and Coster have wrestled one another since the age of 4, Lyle said. Both have had stellar prep careers, though their paths were slightly divergent until this winter. Coster is also a three-time NCS medal winner, capping that with the 126-pound championship last season. He was ranked seventh in the state at that weight by The California Wrestler at the time Lyle beat him.
"I intend on winning league, winning North Coast and placing at state," Lyle said.
Winning the Mission San Jose title would not guarantee a section championship, but if the entries in his weight class follow with the most recent state rankings, a gold medal here would put him near the top in the seedings.
Among the state-ranked wrestlers in that weight class scheduled to wrestle at Mission San Jose are two returning NCS champions, Jacob Macalooley of James Logan and Coster, and two other returning NCS medal winners -- John Andrade of Irvington and Jack Walsh of De La Salle. Other ranked wrestlers in that weight are Bellarmine Prep freshman David San Miguel and three-time Central Coast Section medalist Lupe Jiminez of Gilroy.
Lyle and Coster have not crossed paths often despite their long connection. Last year, Coster won the NCS title at 120 pounds, while Lyle took fourth at 126. This year they both moved up, but Lyle said the transition has been somewhat easy on him.
Lyle started the season by taking fifth at 126 pounds in the Tim Brown Invitational at Foothill-Sacramento, then jumped to 138. Coster also opened the season at 126, winning the Windsor King of the Mat Tournament, then won the Bay Area Invitational at 132 and reached the quarterfinals of the Zinkin Classic in Clovis at 138.
"We kind of met in the middle," said Lyle, who was second at 106 pounds at NCS as a sophomore. "I moved down and he moved up. It's pretty comfortable. For me, I feel a lot lighter and stronger than most of the kids I wrestle."
He may come out a little bloody and a little battered, but he'll take it if it means a victory.
39th Mission San Jose Invitational
WHERE: Mission San Jose High School, 41717 Palm Ave., Fremont
WHEN: Friday -- 8:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Saturday -- 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. (Finals begin at 6 p.m.)