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.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Powell says goodbye to Easton Wrestling

   Age and time catch up with all of us eventually, but it's still surprising to me when some coaching legends hit that 'end of the road' point.
   When I read the news that Steve Powell is retiring as head wrestling coach at Easton, it hit me with a shock kind of moment. Powell was set to make the announcement at the team's wrestling banquet tonight, according to local media reports.
   Powell, who also taught physical education at Easton, came to the District 11 school and stayed for 40 years, the last 32 as the head coach. Health reasons seem to be part of his decision.
   He won 534 dual meets and ranks tied for seventh all-time in Pennsylvania in that category. He coached 19 state champions for a program that boasts 35 total, which is second in the state all-time. He also led Easton to four state dual meet championships. He was twice named national coach of the year and is a member of Pennsylvania's chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, having been inducted three years ago.
   My high school, Phillipsburg, NJ, is Easton's chief rival. The towns border the Delaware River which splits New Jersey from Pennsylvania. The Thanksgiving Day football game between the two is held at Lafayette College in Easton, and for a long time, the annual wrestling dual was at Lafayette as well due to attendance being too large to hold in either high school gymnasium.
   The rivalry runs as deep as any I've seen or been a part of in all sports, and I either sat on the other team's bench or in the opposing stands on several occasions (admittedly) while Powell's squads got the better of us Stateliners.
   That said, I certainly have the utmost respect for Steve and his accomplishments. There is no doubt that his teams made anyone they faced better in the long run.
   I would expect a lot of interest in the now-vacant position at Easton. One would think current top assistant Sean Richmond will get a hard look, though I'll be interested to see if names such as Jordan Oliver or Bryan Snyder appear on the interview list. Oliver was a three-time state champion for Powell at Easton and went on to win a pair of NCAA titles at Oklahoma State. He's currently an assistant to Zeke Jones at Arizona State. Snyder, also a former state champ under Powell, has been an assistant at Nebraska for the past few years, where he was a two-time national finalist.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Class AA States: A look at Thursday's action

   The state tournament is here, as wrestlers were getting prepared on the mats of the Giant Center during today's open workout. Action begins at 9 a.m. tomorrow, and here's a look at some of the first round bouts to watch:

132 pounds - Jared McGill, Chestnut Ridge vs. Todd Lane, Southern Columbia
   Any first round bout at 132 is key as the winners I believe will have a much better chance of getting a medal. In my opinion, the overall bracket may be deeper than any other, including 126 where there are three returning state champions and a runner-up. There's not many places to hide here at 132.
   McGill took third in the Southwest Regional while Lane was second in the Northeast. If you don't remember Lane, the Southern Columbia junior was a state finalist as a freshman, before an injury cut his season short last year. McGill is one of the state's top freshmen, with his highlight win of the year over Bedford state champ Jonathan Gabriel.

138 pounds - Cole Aaron, Brookville vs. Carnell Andrews, Westmont-Hilltop
   Another regional 2nd against regional 3rd place here, and this should be a good one. Aaron and Andrews were both state qualifiers last season. Aaron pushed Gabriel to overtime in the opening round at 126 a year ago, while Andrews fell one win short of the medal stand in the 120-pound class. Despite the presence of unbeaten Zack Lebarron and returning placewinner Matt Schmall in this quarter of the bracket, it would not surprise me to see the Aaron/Andrews winner in Friday night's semifinals.

145 pounds - Keith Batkowski, Montoursville vs. Seth Baney, Huntingdon
   This is also a matchup where I believe the winner could reach the semifinals. Batkowski earned a sixth place medal at 138 a year ago. Baney was a breakout performer in last year's postseason and has continued that for most of this season.

220 pounds - Toby Cahill, Berlin vs. Cole Rickert, Reynolds
   In my view, Cahill is Berlin's best opportunity at a high medal this weekend. His tournament begins with a bout against Rickert, who cannot be overlooked despite having 15 losses. Rickert seems to have been up and down this season, but remember that he was a state placewinner a year ago, seventh at this same weight.