Monday, November 23, 2015

New PIAA Enrollment Numbers

   The PIAA released its new enrollment numbers on Monday. While wrestling remains with two classes, and in my opinion should stay that way, there was one difference among the District 5 schools as Somerset will be competing in Class AAA for at least the next two-year cycle.
   The Golden Eagles' number was just above the cutoff point, as only Shikellamy of District 4 is below them and still an AAA team.
   Among District 6 teams, there were no major changes. The six schools who are Class AAA in this current cycle — Altoona, Bellefonte, Central Mountain, Hollidaysburg, Mifflin County, and State College — will continue to be. Bald Eagle Area and Philipsburg-Osceola, Class AA size programs that decide to wrestle up in class, are still listed as AA though rumors have persisted about both of them choosing the Class AA side at some point. The deadline to notify PIAA of any such moves for the next two years is December 15.
   In District 6-AA, both Westmont-Hilltop and Juniata fell just below the cutoff. Westmont's number will be further split next year with the introduction of the Bishop McCort wrestling program.
   Here's a link to the new wrestling enrollment numbers: PIAA Wrestling: 2016-17 and 2017-18

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Updated Bedford County Numbers

   Here's an updated all-time wins list among wrestlers from the six Bedford County Schools, as well as some other things at the bottom.

Top 10 in Wins - Bedford County
141 - Ryan Easter, Bedford
138 - Tyler Dibert, Chestnut Ridge
133 - Derrick Claar, Chestnut Ridge
132 - Trent Crouse, Chestnut Ridge
132 - Josh Snyder, Hyndman
129 - Brian Gibbons, Bedford
128 - Jake Bennett, Hyndman
128 - Cory Thomas, Bedford
126 - Brandon Reasy, Northern Bedford
122 - Eric Gibbons, Bedford

   Chestnut Ridge's Aaron Burkett has 111 wins entering his senior season. Given his talent and the loaded Lions' schedule, which give him a chance to earn at least 4-5 wins alone in events like the Athens Tournament, the Powerade Tournament, the Ultimate Duals, and postseason team and individual tournaments, Burkett is well within striking distance of Ryan Easter's mark of 141 set two years ago and could be the first county wrestler to get to 150 wins.
   The other two wrestlers that should crack 100 wins, and do it early in the upcoming season, are Chestnut Ridge's Conner Buttry and Bedford's Jonathan Gabriel. Buttry has 95 and Gabriel is at 91.

Bedford County State Champions
2015 - Jonathan Gabriel, Bedford
2008 - Gary Pfahler, Chestnut Ridge
1983 - Paul Clark, Everett
1977 - Jan Clark, Northern Bedford
1976 - Jan Clark, Northern Bedford
1975 - Jan Clark, Northern Bedford
1964 - Ron Hamilton, Bedford
1945 - John Heacock, Bedford

Long time since a Two-Time
   As you can see, the county hasn't had that many champions in its history, and Northern Bedford's Jan Clark was the last repeat winner nearly 40 years ago. The legendary Clark won three and was a four-time finalist.
   Can Gabriel become a two-time champion? It's certainly possible, though standing in the way at 126, where I believe the Bison star will finish the year, could be Central Cambria's Max Murin (champ at 113 last season), or maybe the likes of Reynolds' Cole Matthews (champ at 120), Athens' Brian Courtney (runner-up at 120) or Fort LeBoeuf transfer Charlie Lenox (AAA qualifier for Erie McDowell, owns a pin over Bethlehem Catholic's Luke Karam).
   Paul Clark and Gary Pfahler were seniors when they won their titles, so Gabriel was the first junior to win since Jan Clark's 1976 title.
   Including Gabriel, this has to be perhaps the area's best chance ever to have multiple state champions in one season. Burkett (2nd, 6th previously at 106) and Buttry (3rd at 195) will be among the favorites in their weight classes, while Chestnut Ridge sophomore Justin McCoy (6th at 120) can't be overlooked, and incoming freshman Jared McGill (2-time PJW champion, 5-time finalist) could contend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Day, Another Local Stop

   I had time to get down to Hyndman today, where the Hornets are under new coach Logan Sheldon, a former state finalist and 120-bout winner with his hometown program. As expected, the overall numbers are low as I counted maybe a dozen or just over that in the wrestling room. That said, Sheldon is working hard to keep the tradition, and get as much attention as possible. My picture below is of the door to the wrestling room, which I must say proudly displays a photocopy of my recent Bedford Gazette story discussing his hiring, while under that is a flyer recruiting new wrestlers to the team. Sheldon is being assisted by former teammate and fellow Hornet standout Levi Hosselrode.
   Unfortunately for Sheldon, he'll be without heavyweight Brandon Greise this season. Greise went 17-6 and was a fourth-place finisher in District 5 as a sophomore. This is a case of someone's loss being someone else's gain, as Greise is now at Bedford and will certainly give a boost to the Bisons' upperweights.
   Speaking of Bedford, I had an informal chat with assistant coach Sam Carroll today, who said that numbers look pretty good with the Bisons so far and there is plenty of optimism. That's usually the case with Bedford, but there is no doubt that Jonathan Gabriel's state championship in March (first in 51 years at the school) still resonates and will for a long time.

The wrestling room door at HOPE for Hyndman.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Let the Season Begin!

   Officially, another high school wrestling season is underway with the start of PIAA practices on Monday afternoon. Really though, if you're like me, which you might be if you're a regular to my blog, discussion about what's coming shortly didn't start today. I was one of the recipients in a large group text message last night that stated "Happy Wrestling Eve," then another one from the same source this morning saying "Happy Wrestling Day." So I guess at least a few people are excited about the local season.
   Like I did last year, I'll try to get to as many of the county wrestling rooms as I can in person before the season begins. It's not a big number, but my regular duties at the Bedford Gazette do keep me quite busy, so I'll do my best. Today, I hung out at Everett for a little while to check in on the Warriors. Here's a few tidbits:

2015-16 Everett Warriors
   — Everett head coach Robbie Ripple was optimistic about the number of wrestlers in the room. I don't have an official roster yet, but my count showed somewhere in the mid 20's for varsity bodies. Among them are at least seven returning letterwinners, including sophomore Liam Flaherty, who was a state qualifier as a freshman while posting a 26-11 record.

   — It was awesome to see Zach Reed working out with his teammates. Reed underwent emergency intestinal surgery over the summer and was in and out of the hospital several times very early in his life. In June, three feet of his intestines had to be removed after scar tissue had built up from his previous surgeries. A story about Zach's journey and the community support he and his family have received was featured in October 22nd's sports section of the Bedford Gazette.

   — One tough break for the Warriors this winter will be the absence of heavyweight Kyle Peterson, who suffered a knee injury in the offseason and did not play football nor will he be able to take the mat. Peterson, a junior, showed signs of promise last season with a 14-8 record at 285.

Everett wrestlers work out on the first day of official practice on Monday.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

District 5 Tournament Schedule

   As reported last week, the District 5 committee chose to hold this season's district individual wrestling tournament at Pitt-Johnstown's Sports Center. It will be a one-day event on Saturday, February 20.
   Below is the projected schedule for that day:

8:30 a.m. - Preliminaries
9:30 a.m. - Quarterfinals, followed by Semifinals and Consolations
5 p.m. - Consolation Finals and Championship Bouts

   The one-day model at UPJ was selected over the usual two-day format, which would have been held at either Bedford, Chestnut Ridge, or North Star this year due to construction at Windber. You can read about that decision in my blog posts below.
   This season's Class AA Southwest Regional will again be at Canon-McMillan High School, on March 4 and 5.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

D5 opts for UPJ

   On Wednesday, the District 5 committee voted to have this season's district wrestling tournament at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown's Sports Center.
   The second point of that is it will be held all in one day, on Saturday, February 20, 2016.
   As reported by Spring Into Sports earlier this month, there were two options in regards to the district tournament after longtime host Windber Area High School is unable to have it this year due to ongoing construction at its campus.
   1) - A two-day tournament at either Bedford, Chestnut Ridge, or North Star, wrestled on the normal dates as usual (districts-regionals-states over three consecutive weekends)
   2) - A one-day tournament at UPJ
   District officials opted for the latter, with D5 vice chairman Jeff Batzel saying that overall polling among coaches, athletic directors, and principals from the district schools was in favor of the UPJ deal.
   The one-day tournament does carry a couple of major differences with it, though. PIAA rules state that wrestlers can only compete in five bouts per day as a maximum.
   So pigtail round losers will see their season end rather than have at least one consolation bout. Wrestlebacks will only be contested from the quarterfinals on.
   Secondly, the date of February 20 means there will be a two-week break between the district tournament and the Southwest Regional, which is set to take place on March 4 and 5. This is like District 6-AA has dealt with for years as D6 holds both of its tournaments at the Altoona Fieldhouse.
   While the vote passed, not all coaches are enamored with the idea, one being Chestnut Ridge's Greg Lazor.
   "I definitely don't like it," he said. "Even with them restructuring it to have pigtail losers out, to have the tournament the week before just isn't something I wanted to see happen. That week in between (districts and regionals) means more time without live competition than we are used to. Usually, we already had a whole week or more of practice anyway before the district tournament. Now, it will be the other way around with a lot of teams finishing up their dual seasons right before the tournament, which is only the second biggest tournament of the year."
   As Lazor points out in that last quote, late-season scheduling could be forced to change. Among local schedules, Bedford wrestles Everett on February 16, and Chestnut Ridge faces Tussey Mountain on February 17, just a few days before the new date.
   "It's a concern for sure," said Lazor. "I know the district was in a tough spot this year. Windber would usually have a half-day of school too, so we could start earlier on Friday. I know either us or probably Bedford or North Star didn't have that built in, so we would be back to a later start and maybe have to use three mats.
   "In the end, it is what it is. It's not ideal in my opinion, but it will be a good tournament as always, regardless."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sheldon takes over Hornets' program

UPDATE - I have a story on this for Friday's Gazette.

   It isn't all that surprising that Logan Sheldon would eventually land himself a head coaching opportunity.
   Since graduating from Hyndman in 2009, Sheldon has served as an assistant coach for several years at the school under Gary Satzer, Jake Snyder, and most recently Chadd Sines. With the departure of Sines to return to Meyersdale after one season, HOPE for Hyndman had an opening and Sheldon was recently hired to take over the reigns.
   I'll have more on this for the Bedford Gazette at an upcoming date, but I do know that Sheldon was the only applicant for the position. He was initially hesitant to move into the head chair as he has other time commitments, but when nobody else put in their name, Sheldon wanted to make sure there was a coach in place.
   To me, this is a win-win scenario for the school and for the former state runner-up. In being on staff for a number of years despite the change in school (public to charter), Sheldon has built a good rapport with the Hyndman kids. The Hornets always seem to struggle with filling weight classes, but they do tend to have standout wrestlers from time to time despite the low numbers. Sheldon was one of them for sure, and his experiences should benefit those athletes who are in the room.
   Sheldon's hire has added to a busy time amongst District 5 schools changing wrestling coaches. While we already knew of Sines' return to Meyersdale, Eric Knopsnyder recently reported that Somerset hired former D5 official Brandon Boburchock, while Conemaugh Township will have James Otten at the helm. That link is here -

Bedford Gazette File Photo
   Hyndman native Logan Sheldon, seen here in the 2009 state tournament where he finished second at 130 pounds, was recently named HOPE for Hyndman's varsity coach. Sheldon was a three-time state qualifier with the Hornets and won 120 bouts in his high school career.