Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Little Wrestling Talk

   We are 60 days away from the start of official practices (November 17) for the 2014-15 wrestling season. Can you tell I'm counting those days down?
   Coming off of last season, it should be another strong year in and around District 5. Obviously, we'll be able to get down to brass tacks on everything once we are closer to that practice date, and the first matches.
   With that said, here's a few interesting notes, and some analysis, that I've come across in recent days and weeks:

Barnes to Southern Columbia
   Southern Columbia hasn't exactly been a wrestling power as compared to the Tigers' perennially-strong football team, but the school certainly is producing some wrestling talent at the moment. In March, three SC wrestlers — Todd and Kent Lane, and Blake Marks — all reached the finals of the Class AA state tournament in their respective weight classes.
   That trio is expected to be joined by another returning state runner-up in Billy Barnes, who transferred from fellow District 4 member Williamson, and recently committed to wrestle at Bloomsburg University. Barnes, who suffered his only loss last winter in the state finals against Jason Nolf, is playing football for the Tigers. He may still be headed for a PIAA hearing though in early October to decide eligibility for wrestling, which has happened in the past for such notables as Zain Retherford (had to sit out a year) and Cody Wiercioch (granted immediate eligibility).
   If Barnes is in the lineup, that could make Southern Columbia a potential threat on the team level, depending on what else the Tigers have to fill things out.

D11 makes change in team format, again
   Last year, District 11 made a switch in how its team duals are run, and after quite a bit of criticism, another change will happen for this season. After having what it dubbed "The Ultimate Qualifier" as its second team to qualify for the state team duals in both Class AA and AAA, D11 is now going to a true second place format.
   I endorsed the Ultimate Qualifier in a blog post before last season began, but I do understand the drawbacks. In Class AAA last year, Parkland lost to Nazareth for the championship, then had to turn around in mere minutes and face Liberty, who the Trojans had beaten in a semifinal earlier that day, for the second spot. That kind of timing, or lack of, is unfairly tight and can be adjusted for one, I would think.
   That said, I still like the idea of having a way to make sure the two best teams from a said district get to Hershey.
   On the other side, that's why they wrestle too. There was a lot of debate in District 3-AA, where Boiling Springs and Bermudian Springs had to go against each other early on because of the power point structure, and the loser was not going to make it to states. Yet Hamburg, who did make it without much fanfare, made a lot of prognosticators (including myself) look bad by knocking off Burrell and Brookville on its way to the state semifinals.

College Corner
   Four-time defending national champion Penn State just released its schedule for the upcoming season.  The full release can be seen at
   The highlight home dual is February 8 as the Nittany Lions will battle Iowa inside the Bryce Jordan Center. Last year, Penn State beat Pitt in the first-ever match at the BJC, which set an attendance record of just under 16,000. I would certainly expect the PSU-Iowa showdown to top that mark.
   On the mat, Penn State should still be very formidable, but time will tell if a fifth straight NCAA title comes to fruition. Official word from the school has Andrew Alton out until at least January as he recovers from an injury. A source I recently talked to said Alton may miss the entire season though, and he would be applying for a medical redshirt. The question of whether Alton is in or out is a major one in the Penn State lineup. Likely, that puts Zach Beitz at 149, and could keep Retherford from using his redshirt, as some suggested, to be in there again at 141 (where Beitz may have landed). Also, the going word is that we may not see 125-pounder Nico Megaludis for two years, as he could redshirt this winter and use an Olympic redshirt in 2015-16. Cael Sanderson's top three recruits — Nick Nevills, Bo Nickal, and Jason Nolf — are all expected to redshirt.
   In terms of recruiting, I'm very interested in what Arizona State is doing, under former world champion Zeke Jones. Jones has been plucking a tremendous amount of talent, including two of the top five projected high school senior prospects in the Valencia brothers from California, as well as a pair of Pennsylvania studs from Franklin Regional, Josh Shields and Josh Maruca. Jones also recently hired former PIAA and NCAA star Jordan Oliver to his coaching staff.
   I haven't heard much about the recruiting process for Shields' and Maruca's teammate Devin Brown, though I did hear that Penn State was high on him, maybe as a way to have the inside track for superstud Spencer Lee a couple of years down the road. Remember, Brown and Lee both transferred to Franklin Regional from Saegertown before last season began.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Ryder Cup 2014

   I rarely delve into national sporting events on this blog, but the Ryder Cup is one of my favorite events on the professional landscape. With another one of the biennial competitions approaching and with the nine automatic qualifiers for the United States now determined, I give my insight on who should be the three captain's picks by Tom Watson (not that I have any pull whatsoever with the five-time British Open champion).

First, here's the nine members of the United States team:
1. Bubba Watson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Jim Furyk
4. Jimmy Walker
5. Phil Mickelson
6. Matt Kuchar
7. Jordan Spieth
8. Patrick Reed
9. Zach Johnson

    On paper, it's an interesting blend of those with Ryder Cup experience and those with not so much or  no experience. The two long-term veterans are Furyk and Mickelson. Mickelson has played on every team since 1995, while Furyk has since 1997. Walker, Spieth, and Reed will be Ryder Cup rookies. While Walker is likely unknown by the casual fan, the fact that he finished fourth on the final points list says something about the year he has had. Spieth played on the U.S. President's Cup team last fall, and is a rising American star. Reed, like Walker, comes with a lot of unknown qualities. He stated he was a top five player in the world earlier this year, which made some headlines. Personally, I think the Ryder Cup rookie stuff is overblown a bit. These guys can all play golf, and play it well. Perhaps underrated is No. 9 Johnson, who seems to quietly make his way onto Ryder Cup and President's Cup teams, and usually performs well in those tournaments.

Now to the picks:

   Ryan Moore - Another relative unknown to most outside fans, but Moore finished 11th on the final points list and has had a really good summer stretch of play. He would be the fourth rookie on the team, but as I stated before, I don't think that's such a big deal. He does have match play ability as a former U.S. Amateur champion.

   Keegan Bradley - Bradley finished 13th on the points list. After 2012 at Medinah, I see no reason to really pass this guy up as a captain's pick. He teamed with Mickelson to go 3-0 over the first three sessions, and was our biggest cheerleader. He reminds me a lot of the late Payne Stewart in that way, a personality that I feel has been lacking on American teams since Stewart's last appearance in 1999.

   Hunter Mahan - You have to go a little further down the points list to find Mahan, but I would pick him because I think he'll be hungry. In 2008, the last win for the United States, he made a number of great shots that helped the American side regain the Cup. But in 2010, he was in the final singles pairing and had a errant chip shot against Graeme McDowell cost him and the U.S. in a tight loss at Celtic Manor. And two years ago, Mahan was on the short list of potential captain's picks, only to be one of the odd men out. Based on the painful loss four years ago and then not being selected, I think Mahan is the perfect final addition to this team.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Classes of 2016, 17, and 18 National Rankings

   Well it's been two months, so why not a wrestling post. In doing some wrestling research, I came across national rankings for the Class of 2016, Class of 2017, and Class of 2018. Plenty of PA guys in there, and to nobody's surprise should be Spencer Lee rated first in the Class of 2017. Here you go with the Pennsylvania wrestlers.

National Rankings
Class of 2016 (Juniors to be)
3. Luke Pletcher, Greater Latrobe
13. George Phillippi, Derry Area
29. Kaleb Young, Punxsutawney
30. Hayden Hidlay, Mifflin County
37. Luke Karam, Bethlehem Catholic

Class of 2017 (Sophomores to be)
1. Spencer Lee, Franklin Regional
7. Cameron Coy, Penn Trafford
11. Jarod Verkleeven, Belle Vernon
25. Todd Lane, Southern Columbia

Class of 2018 (Freshmen to be)
3. Gavin Teasdale, Jefferson-Morgan
7. Sam Sasso, Nazareth

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Penn State tops in recruiting

  Intermat has named Penn State's 2014 recruiting class as the top one in the nation. Cael Sanderson went out of state for his top two recruits, plucking heavyweight Nick Nevills from California and 174/184-pound Bo Nickal from Texas.
  Nevills is ranked fourth among individual recruits nationwide while Nickal is fifth. Also joining the fold is three-time PIAA Class AA champion Jason Nolf of Kittanning, who is projected at 149 and is rated seventh among recruits.
   Oklahoma State is ranked second, with the Cowboys getting four-time unbeaten PA champ Chance Marstellar of Kennard-Dale as their top recruit. Cornell is third, and Ohio State, which landed top upperweight prospects Kyle Snyder and Thomas Haines, is fourth.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wrestling Camp at Claysburg

   The Bulldog and Dragon Tilts and Legs Wrestling Camp will be held May 12-15 from 6:30-9 p.m. in the Claysburg-Kimmel High School auxillary gymnasium.
   The camp will feature two-time NCAA All-American and former Tyrone state champion A.J. Schopp as the lead counselor.
   Cost is $60 to attend, and coaches can attend free with any wrestler. For more information, call Dave Marko at 931-8894 or Dave Aungst at 381-5860.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bethlehem Catholic moving to Class AAA

   In a move that surely will be applauded by several Class AA teams, state power Bethlehem Catholic is expected to wrestle in Class AAA beginning next season.
   The Golden Hawks are making the move in what is described as a voluntary upgrade, given the deadline for schools to declare up in classification for the PIAA's next two-year cycle has long since passed. Numbers for the next cycle were released for all sports in mid-December.
   The move was unanimously passed by the District 11 committee, and will take effect if it is also passed by the PIAA Board of Directors at their May 21 meeting. That is expected to happen.
   Through local media reports, Becahi coach Jeff Karam says the school has had internal discussions of such a move for about a year.
   "We're always looking for new challenges and always trying to find ways to improve," Karam told Nick Fierro of Allentown's Morning Call. "We feel like moving up now is the right time. I'm happy the District 11 committee approved it and I think it's going to be terrific to compete against the Triple-A teams in the postseason. We're just going to have to work extra hard."
   Bethlehem Catholic has won four consecutive PIAA Class AA Team Duals championships, and has also been a dominant force in the individual postseason.
   If nothing else, it certainly changes the landscape in Class AA, where it was a battle for second place in early February in Hershey.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flood City Showdown

   This year's Flood City Showdown will take place this Sunday, April 6, with a 3:05 p.m. start at Westmont-Hilltop High School. It again features some top seniors from the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference against those from the WestPAC and Heritage Conferences.
   Below are the tentative matchups, courtesy of Westmont coach Matt Beaujon:

110 - Carlos Chavez, Ligonier Valley vs. Tommy DeArmitt, Berlin *
126 - Jake Warren, Bedford vs. E.J. Custer, Berlin
132 - Ryan Easter, Bedford vs. Tanner Hetrick, Meyersdale
141 - Garrett Thomas, Bedford vs. Seth Deist, Meyersdale
145 - Nick Naglic, Richland vs. Corey Fritch, North Star
160 - Mike Laue, Somerset vs. Dereck Croyle, Ligonier Valley
175 - Landon Lohr, Somerset vs. Chance Williams, Bedford *
190 - Kevin Horner, North Star vs. Gavin Berkley, Meyersdale *
285 - Aaron Gill, Cambria Heights vs. Austin Buttry, Chestnut Ridge *

* - Non-Scoring bout for team purposes