Tuesday, January 17, 2017

January check-in

   Hello again wrestling fans. No, I'm not back to covering the sport full-time, but I do intend to keep this blog in a modified form. There won't be daily or weekly posts as had been the normal. Hopefully, I will be able to check in from time to time. This season is the first in some 20-plus years that my live wrestling viewing has been limited to as little as a few hours.
   That said, I have been keeping tabs on the local action as the 2016-17 season is quickly heating up.
   Those last few hours of seeing some wrestling took place two weekends ago when I brought my 3-year old son to Everett's Bloody Run Duals. Of course, it was nice to shake hands (high fives in my son's case) and chat with some people I hadn't seen since I left the Bedford Gazette one month ago today.
   Here's some local wrestling things that have caught my eye.
   * Stars Shining: A number of veteran wrestlers are off to strong starts, among them Chestnut Ridge's three returning state medalists, Everett's trio of state qualifiers, and Northern Bedford's Zach Clark. Ridge's studs include 145-pounder Justin McCoy, who is currently ranked first in Class AA by Mark Dugan of Off the Mat. Despite the fact that McCoy collected his second state medal last season, I got the sense that he left the Giant Center in March with a bit of a bad taste in his mouth. The junior has been really good so far this winter, with a big win over two-time state finalist David Pipa at King of the Mountain. He placed second there and also won a medal at the Powerade.
   * New Names Making Names: My last Bedford match for the newspaper in December was highlighted by Riley Steinbuch's overtime win over Penn Cambria's Chase Proudfit, who was a state qualifier last season. Steinbuch has continued to impress with a 15-2 record to date at 126. That includes another victory against a PIAA qualifier in Westmont's Derrick Christie. Steinbuch is definitely someone worth watching going forward.
   Others worth a look are Northern Bedford's Ian Sherlock and Chestnut Ridge's Caleb Holderbaum. Also, Bedford's Kaden Cassidy is doing very well at Bishop McCort and Dugan currently has the freshman ranked second in the state at 106 pounds.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Saying Goodbye, for now

   I'm sure many of you have already heard the news that I will be leaving the Bedford Gazette in less than two weeks. I wrote a column about my departure in last Saturday's edition of the paper, and word travels fast in these parts.
   Frankly, I'm a little overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and well wishes I've already received from a number of people. Of course, I also got a couple of looks like "You know it's wrestling season, right?"
   Yes, I do, and it should be another strong one around here.
   I began this blog a few years ago not knowing really if it would take off at all, but it didn't take long for me to realize that it would, thanks to all of you. My mindset was to add more, and different, local content to what I was already being paid to do for the Gazette, while also trying to expand to statewide and even national wrestling matters, mostly on the high school level.
   Covering wrestling for the last 10 years here has been one unbelievable ride. And it's been an absolute honor to get to write about accomplishments such as Chestnut Ridge's first-ever state champion (Gary Pfahler), Bedford's first in 50+ years (Jonathan Gabriel), and Chestnut Ridge's trip to the state team finals in 2015. Obviously, there's so much more on the local level, as well as seeing so many high-level wrestlers around the state. From Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf to Spencer Lee and Gavin Teasdale, the list goes on and on and on.
   Like I said in Saturday's piece in print, there's no way I can thank all of the local sports community enough for their friendship and hospitality over the years.
   As for my next move, I'm departing out of journalism on a full-time basis. Priorities change as we get older sometimes. In reality, writing was never something I thought I'd be in anyway. After one high school season at the local newspaper near my hometown, I moved to Bedford County and enjoyed the last decade immensely.
   I'm proud of what I did here and to get what I did out of it for 11 years. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of such awesome moments, not just in wrestling but in all of local sports.
   So as the new wrestling season begins, I will still be around for the first week of it and plan on seeing a few matches. And if time and needs warrant, I might be at an event to help out.
   To the wrestling community and beyond, thank you.
   Here's a quick rundown of what I see this year.
   — Numbers, and enthusiasm surrounds many of the local schools as much as ever at places where wrestling has seen a recent downturn. That's good news overall for the sport.
   — Individual success should be very good this season when the state tournament rolls around. Chestnut Ridge has three state placewinners back in Justin McCoy, Jared McGill, and Morgan Deremer. Everett has three state qualifiers in Liam Flaherty, Garret Cornell, and Wes Graham. Cornell and Graham fell one win short of a state medal, as did Northern Bedford's Zach Clark.
   Look for some youngsters to make noise as well. A lot of eyes will be on Bedford native Kaden Cassidy, who is wrestling at Bishop McCort in its first year as a program. Cassidy won a Pennsylvania Junior title last season. Also keep an eye on Northern Bedford's Ian Sherlock, who has some high credentials coming into his freshman year.
   I also would like to give a hat tip to Eric Knopsnyder for creating a regional media day that was held this past weekend. While I would have liked to have been there, even though I had already accepted a new job, I chose to spend time home with my family as I have been putting in a lot of time at the Gazette. Eric's idea is so good for the sport, and he promotes wrestling as good as anyone in the state in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Season Almost Here

   Yes, the new high school wrestling season is nearly here, as official practices in Pennsylvania begin on Friday. I had a little bit of time today to start looking at schedules and here are some new additions for my local teams.

@Bishop McCort, December 22
   Obviously, a lot of regional talk has centered around the new program that starts this winter at Bishop McCort. The Crimson Crushers are scheduled for a number of high profile tournaments, including the Beast of the East and Brookville's Ultimate Duals, but a dual meet circled on the calendar is likely an early-season date with Bedford. Bishop McCort will have a handful of very talented wrestlers in its lineup, and that should include Bedford native Kaden Cassidy, an incoming freshman who decided to head to the Johnstown school after a highly impressive youth career, which ended with a PJW state title last March.

Chestnut Ridge
@King of the Mountain Tournament, December 16-17
   Chestnut Ridge will be the third local school to ever compete in the King of the Mountain Tournament at Central Mountain. Claysburg-Kimmel went in the early years of the event, while Bedford attended for several seasons. This is another strong test for the Lions' core of top wrestlers, which will include returning state medalists Morgan Deremer, Jared McGill, and Justin McCoy.

@HOPE for Hyndman, January 10
   I'm not sure if Claysburg and Hyndman have ever wrestled in a dual, but they will this year just after 2017 rings in. Two good fan bases here should make for an entertaining night.

@Sheetz Holiday Classic, December 16-17
   Last season was a tremendous one for Everett, and the schedule is a little better this year with the addition of the Sheetz Holiday Classic at Mount Aloysius. Remember that the Warriors have three state qualifiers returning and some other talent.
   On another note, it appears that a home dual held at Southern Fulton (where Everett has a co-op) will not take place. I know that Everett athletic director Brian Koontz wanted to make this a reality, and hopefully something can be worked out for the 2017-18 season. Everett has some wrestlers from Southern, notably returning regional champion Liam Flaherty.

HOPE for Hyndman
   Hyndman has a number of new changes, including that dual with Claysburg mentioned above. The Hornets are also slated for the season-opening Conemaugh Township Tournament, as well as a return to the Winner's Choice Tournament in West Virginia, which they regularly attended in the past. Also on the card is a home dual with Ligonier Valley.

No changes appear for Northern Bedford or Tussey Mountain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

UPDATE: Class AA Southwest Regional to IUP? Wait and see, again.

   Update on SW Regional: I'm now being told that IUP's Kovalchick Center is the all-but-finalized site and the regional tournament will be held on February 24 and 25. No word on further details, will hope to have some soon.
   I was also told that Chestnut Ridge and Huntingdon had scheduled a match early in December, but now hearing that will only be a scrimmage.
   Below is my original post regarding the Southwest Regional.

   There's been some movement on the Class AA Southwest Regional front, but we are still awaiting word on where the tournament may be held.
   I've been in contact with a number of people/sources over the past week who have all stated that progress is ongoing.
   One thing that does appear to be a definitive change is that the tournament will likely be held on February 24 and 25, 2017, which would be a week earlier than normal, and two weeks prior to the state tournament in Hershey.
   There are three districts involved in the Southwest Regional. Currently, District 5 and District 6 hold their district tournaments two weeks before the regional event. District 5 did last year, and has officially approved doing so again for this upcoming season, with the D5 Tournament set to be held at UPJ's Sports Center on February 18.
   That same weekend, the District 6-AA Tournament takes place in Altoona. Where that leads us to is District 7 (WPIAL), which normally holds three sectional tournaments at various sites the weekend before its district tournament.
   However, talk emerged of the WPIAL potentially altering its postseason to allow for such a change at the regional.
   WPIAL wrestling chairman and Canon-McMillan athletic director Frank Vulcano confirmed to me that the sectional tournaments will be held on February 17 and the district tournament will be on the next day, the 18th. The three sectionals are all to be held at Canon-Mac as well, instead of three different locations. Vulcano didn't elaborate on tournament details (still be looked at), though I think some changes (five match limit in a day, etc.) would have to be looked at in a one-day district tournament for the size of D7.
   That opens the door for the regional tournament to be held a week earlier than usual.
   Now, back to where to hold it.
   Two years ago, it appeared as if IUP's Kovalchick Center was the destination, only to be changed to Canon-McMillan later when the season was ongoing. According to those I've spoken to, IUP is the frontrunner as the February 24-25 weekend is available, as an away doubleheader for the Crimson Hawks' basketball teams are on the schedule.
   Certainly, a site more centralized to the whole regional would be ideal. Ask schools like Juniata and Penns Valley about the travel to the southwestern corner of the state?
   That said, my opinion is that Vulcano and his staff at Canon-Mac did a very nice job with the Southwest Regional the past two years. Especially with the mat changes (3 in main gym, 2 in back gym) last year, the tournament ran very smoothly.
   Two years ago, one drawback to IUP was the Thursday-Friday format, which does not appear to be an issue if a contract can be worked out. Cost is another hurdle, as rumors had it very high if the tournament was going to be held there in 2015.
   Other potential locations include Mount Aloysius, which has a spacious newer facility. The Cambria County War Memorial will not be available this coming season, even on the final weekend of February as the Johnstown Tomahawks are playing on that Friday night and again on Saturday afternoon.
   One person "in the know" told me that if all else fails, Canon-McMillan would likely be the location for a third straight year. Canon-Mac is set to hold the WPIAL Class AAA Tournament, but that will be held March 3-4, with the PIAA Tournaments going March 9-11.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

District 5 Tournament going back to UPJ

   Just back from vacation so not sure this is any breaking news, but I have confirmed that the 2017 District 5 Tournament will again be held at UPJ's Sports Center. The date will be Saturday, February 18.
   By most accounts that I either heard at the time or since, everyone seemed pleased with the venue change, which was necessary as renovations were taking place at Windber Area High School. The one-day tournament will also again take place two weeks before the Class AA Southwest Regional.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lions headed to KoM in 2016

   Chestnut Ridge's 2016-17 wrestling schedule includes many of the usual opponents and tournaments from recent seasons, but the Lions have added the King of the Mountain Tournament for this upcoming year.
   The KoM, hosted by Central Mountain, will be held on December 16 and 17. In adding this event, Chestnut Ridge will not appear at the Athens Tournament this winter. Greg Lazor's squad will again be at Powerade and the Brookville Ultimate Duals.
   Below is the list of teams expected to attend the King of the Mountain. Notable others from Class AA include Bishop McCort, Boiling Springs, Burrell, Huntingdon, Fort LeBoeuf, and Wyalusing.

2016 King of the Mountain Team Field
Bethel Park
Big Spring
Bishop McCort
Bishop McDevitt (D3)
Boiling Springs
Central Mountain
Chestnut Ridge
Council Rock South
Erie McDowell
Exeter Township
Fort LeBoeuf
General McLane
Greater Latrobe
Hempfield (D7)
Jersey Shore
Mifflin County
Moshannon Valley
Northern Lebanon
Owen J. Roberts
Penn Trafford
Seneca Valley
South Western
Spring Grove
Upper Darby
West Chester Henderson

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chestnut Ridge Wrestling Camp

   Chestnut Ridge will again hold wrestling camps for three different age groups later this month. Given the recent success of the Lions and the coaching staff that Greg Lazor has built, these camps should be very beneficial to all wrestlers.
   All camps are held at Chestnut Ridge High School under the direction of Lazor, Lion wrestlers, and any other coach who wishes to participate. Also as a special camp instructor for the varsity camp is Nick Roberts, who won three PIAA titles at North Star and just won a NCAA Division II national championship at UPJ.
   Any wrestler from any school is eligible to attend, and the best part about it is they are all free.
   Camp Dates
   Elementary: June 20 and 21, 9-11 a.m.
   Advanced Elementary/Junior High: June 20, 21, and 22, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
   Advanced Junior High/Varsity: June 22, 23, and 24, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.