Thursday, November 20, 2014

Local Tour Stop #3

   On Thursday, I ventured to the southernmost school in my coverage area for the Bedford Gazette, at HOPE for Hyndman Charter School.
   The Hornets are coached this season by a new face, but a familiar one in District 5. Chadd Sines, who had some solid success at Meyersdale, is now in charge. Overall, Hyndman will be young this year, but at first glance in the room, numbers appear decent for Sines to begin his coaching reign in Bedford County.
   Sines is joined on the coaching staff by Logan Sheldon, who also served as Jake Snyder's top assistant over the past few years. Sheldon, a former state finalist for the Hornets, is well-liked by many of the wrestlers and keeping him around should preserve continuity.
   One note of interest I did see was another female wrestler among my locals. Rebecca Mosher is a freshman on Hyndman's roster. She joins Everett junior Selena Munoz in that regard. Somerset's Kat Luteri is another around the district.
   I'm glad to see more girls in Pennsylvania giving wrestling a shot. It's a sport that's demanding and not for the faint of heart, yet these three and others are battling their male counterparts without blinking an eye. Kudos!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Local Tour Stop #2

   My travels around the local wrestling teams on Wednesday took me to Claysburg-Kimmel for a look at this year's version of the Bulldogs.
   Claysburg could have as many as 11 returning lettermen in the 2014-15 lineup, which is a good foundation to start from for second-year head coach Dave Aungst. The Bulldogs have seven returnees that posted at least 10 wins last season, led by mid-upperweight Dakotah Feathers with 18.
   Certainly, Aungst would like to see postseason success come from that experience. It was quite an odd sight not to see Claysburg represented at the regional tournament last season.
   Speaking of Claysburg-Kimmel, the start of each wrestling year begins with one question for me: Who might be the Cody Feathers for this season?
   As a junior, Feathers caught lightning in a bottle during the 2006-07 postseason. It was my first year working at the Bedford Gazette, and Cody's run became a great story and still is one of my highlights over the past eight years of covering the sports scene around here.
   Feathers walked into the Altoona Fieldhouse as the sixth seed in a pretty solid 125-pound bracket at the District 6-AA Tournament. He got to the quarterfinals and knocked off Tyrone's T.J. Albright on that Friday night. The next day, he pinned Northern Cambria's Scott Knarr in the semifinals, then rallied with a late four-point move to defeat Glenn Winslow of Cambria Heights, 6-3, for the improbable championship.
   The next weekend in the Southwest Regional, Feathers earned another title with a 10-8 win over Winslow in the finals. District 6 owned that regional bracket. Aside from Feathers and Winslow, Albright was third, Paul Myers of Penn Cambria took fourth, and Knarr finished sixth.
   The Bulldog ended up winning his first 10 postseason bouts before losing in the state semifinals and eventually placing sixth in Hershey. He had a strong regular season as a senior, but didn't make it back to the Giant Center. However, Feathers was already etched in history, as former Claysburg and current Central head coach Dave Marko painted the names of district and regional champions, and state placewinners on the walls of CK's practice room. You can see my photo of Feathers' district winning accomplishment below.
   Back to the question, which evolves from the fact that Feathers was not even close to the radar when it came to potential state qualifiers, let alone medalists. Yet at the end of the season, he was the Gazette area's only state placewinner.

Is there another Cody Feathers story in the works for this season?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Changes to the blog

   If you've been viewing this blog on a PC or Mac, you might have noticed I've been tinkering with the look of it in the past few weeks and months. I've now gone with a more basic look that I hope to stay with. I don't consider myself a great artist, but I'm a design freak. When I was young, I remember my parents having a newspaper program on their computer that you could write articles and design a layout. Little did I know at the time that I would be doing this for a living, though it was never my intention to go this route in the media business until I took a part-time gig about 10 years ago.
   Anyway, my main reason for the blog is to keep people informed, offer opinion, and such, not to be the best looking website out there. So for now, I'm keeping it simple.

And It Begins

   The first whistles blew today for the official start of practice for the 2014-15 wrestling season, which is always long awaited after the previous season's state tournament months ago.
   I started my look at local teams with a visit to Everett to check in on the Warriors. Certainly, the first day of a new season is going to bring plenty of excitement, and that was the case with fourth-year head coach Rob Ripple and his group. While I don't have an exact roster yet, numbers appear to be pretty good for the Everett team.
   Ripple, who helped turn Bedford's junior high into one of the top feeder programs in the area, and his son Tanner, a 100-match winner for the varsity Bisons, have been doing good things in Everett and hopes are up for building on that foundation. Joining as an assistant coach this season is former Bedford heavyweight state placewinner Josh Krupa.
   The highlight for the Warriors last season was Devin Reed, who became the school's first state placewinner since 2005, taking sixth at 285 pounds in Hershey. Reed won't be on the roster this year, but I would think his success should be to the benefit of the others that those kind of postseason achievements are possible.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Top Team Talk

   I've taken a look at who some of the top teams across the state in Class AA could be this coming season, based on who's back and who is new. The teams are ordered starting with last season's state finish, if applicable. It's a pretty substantial list, but of course, there will probably be a surprise team or two that's not on here.

UPDATE on November 10: I have added some notes on many of these teams.

2013-14: District 10 champion, State 2nd place
Gage Bayless, 39-7 at 106
Seth Hogue, 37-11 at 113, State 4th
Chaise Hauck, 27-15 at 120
Mike Bartolo, 34-11 at 126
Alec Reiter, 2-4 at 126
Joel Leise, 24-17 at 132
Damion Gearhart, 3-5 at 145
Mike Millero, 41-10 at 170
Cole Rickert, 31-9 at 220
Gene Ringer, 38-15 at 285, State 8th
    Promising Newcomer: Cole Matthews (PJW 3rd place in 2014, previous PJW champion)

NOTES: The defending state team runner-up likely comes into the new season as one of the Class AA favorites, with Bethlehem Catholic up in AAA. Hogue had a solid state tournament last season that included a quarterfinal win over Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths. Millero, Rickert, and Ringer give the Raiders as good of an upperweight group as probably anybody. The question mark may be the middle of the lineup, which is likely where we'll see the debut of another Matthews in Reynolds' varsity colors. This one, Cole, is very accomplished already with six PJW state medals and wins this summer in the ASICS Freestyle and Greco-Roman Nationals. Reynolds will wrestle at the Powerade Tournament in late December, a new addition to its schedule.

2013-14: District 7 champion, State 3rd place
Dean Edwards, 12-23 at 106
Dillan Jeffery, 21-17 at 113
Jason Roberts, 11-25 at 120
Anthony Marra, 28-18 at 126
Damon Greenwald, 15-11 at 138
Jason David, 7-6 at 145
Alex Moses, 14-9 at 182
Robert Scherer, 32-19 at 195
Allan Beattie, 44-6 at 285, State 3rd

NOTES: Burrell had a great finish to its team season last winter. After losing to Hamburg in its PIAA Duals opener at Hershey, the Bucs reeled off five straight wins to finish third. That included avenging a loss to Chestnut Ridge at the Brookville Duals, before beating Huntingdon and then ripping both Hamburg in a rematch, then Boiling Springs in the consolation final. Burrell did lose state champion Steven Edwards, but a nucleus of experience is back, led by heavyweight Allan Beattie, third in the state as a junior.

Boiling Springs
2013-14: District 3 champion, State 4th place
Jonathan Day, 18-21 at 106
Devin Crum, 3-18 at 113
Korbin Myers, 44-2 at 120, State Champion
Grant Bond, 41-7 at 126, State 5th
Kyle Shoop, 39-9 at 132, State 2nd
A.J. Kostyak, 15-7 at 138
John Vaughn, 35-13 at 145
Tyler Kauffman, 20-15 at 152
Travis Wickard, 32-16 at 170
Nathan Gouhin, 24-18 at 182

NOTES: The defending District 3 champion Bubblers should be very strong again in the 2014-15 season. The middle of the lineup is very strong, with Myers, Bond, Shoop, and Vaughn leading the way. Likely challenging Boiling Springs locally will be Bermudian Springs, who you can view below.

2013-14: District 3 2nd place, State qualifier
Romeo Eaddy, 16-22 at 106
Mike Eicher, 4-25 at 113
Sean Stanish, 43-12 at 120
Dylan Miller, 2-2 at 138
Andrew Kochel, 23-22 at 145
Matt James, 13-19 at 152
Ronnie Lavigne, 18-19 at 160
Tyler Herber, 18-24 at 170

NOTES: On paper, it looks like Hamburg might not match last season's output. Then again, who thought Hamburg would have reached the state team semifinals? The District 3 school upset Burrell and Brookville in consecutive matches before running into the Bethlehem Catholic buzzsaw. 

2013-14: District 9 champion, State qualifier
Jacob St. Laurent, 5-5 at 106
Gavin Park, 28-7 at 106
Taylor Ortz, 38-4 at 113, State 3rd
Cole Aaron, 25-12 at 120
Devin Joiner, 10-13 at 126
Cole Clever, 20-14 at 126
Dalton Zimmerman, 26-10 at 132, State 6th in 2013
Dane Clever, 2-6 at 152
Jimmy Miller, 27-15 at 160, State 8th
Dominic Palmer, 5-5 at 170
Noah Cielseski, 9-15 at 182
Jake Keesecker, 2-3 at 195
Bryce Town, 29-12 at 220
   Promising Newcomer: Caleb Hetrick (PJW placewinner in 2013)

NOTES: Brookville should be another top contender if things line up. Ortz and Miller won state medals a season ago, while Zimmerman didn't but he did the year before. The District 9 champs have a number of other quality people, including Town, who I saw did a lot of offseason wrestling.

2013-14: District 6 champion, State qualifier
John Kline, 2-27 at 106
Collin Glorioso, 40-4 at 113, State 5th, State 3rd in 2013
Tyler Scott, 33-8 at 120
Seth Baney, 4-0 at 145
Jacob Oliver, 41-5 at 145, State 4th
Jon Wagner, 34-11 at 152
Logan Fisher, 31-10 at 170
Matt Norris, 30-8 at 182

NOTES: Huntingdon should be one of the favorites if not the top dog in District 6 this season. Glorioso and Oliver front a lineup that has a good bit of talent even if the other names aren't household ones yet. The Bearcats did add the King of the Mountain Tournament to their schedule, giving their studs another top event to shine in.

Saucon Valley
2013-14: District 11 2nd place, State qualifier
Jack Hill, 33-10 at 106
Harley Lau, 2-1 at 113
Jarred Kyra, 7-19 at 113
Ty Drukenmiller, 18-22 at 120
Bret Svites, 17-21 at 126
Justin Propsner, 11-11 at 132
Dylan Yonney, 27-18 at 132
Nathan Harka, 23-21 at 145
Nick Schneider, 14-10 at 145
Blayne Hirshbeck, 18-13 at 152
Devin Fontenez, 35-11 at 160
Jason Lynch, 40-13 at 170
Brandon Blobe, 24-7 at 182
Sam Scheetz, 19-6 at 285
   Promising Newcomer: Jason Jones (PJW qualifier)

NOTES: The banner in District 11-AA this year could come from Saucon Valley, which has had a good team in recent seasons, but has been overshadowed by the dominance of Bethlehem Catholic. Saucon has a lot of returning kids, led by Fontanez, Lynch, and Blobe in the upperweights. 

Chestnut Ridge
2013-14: District 5 champion, State qualifier
Aaron Burkett, 38-8 at 106, State 6th
Blake Dunlap, 22-11 at 113
Luke Hobson, 5-4 at 120
Morgan Deremer, 18-13 at 126
Derrick Claar, 32-8 at 138
Trent Crouse, 30-8 at 145
Brandyn Beaver, 6-9 at 152
Colby Hillegass, 23-16 at 160
Josh McGill, 2-4 at 160
Conner Buttry, 36-9 at 182
Jon Heming, 9-17 at 195
Shane Davis, 13-9 at 220
   Promising Newcomer: Justin McCoy (PJW 3rd place in 2014, previous PJW champion, five-time PJW placewinner)

NOTES: As long as the weight classes shuffle out, Chestnut Ridge should be loaded in the lower and middle areas of its roster, with Buttry leading the upperweights for the Lions. Burkett, Claar, and Crouse are the top winners there with others having a good bit of experience. Certainly, McCoy is going to be a youngster to watch as he brings a strong resume to the varsity room. If things play out well and Ridge can get through District 5, meaning likely Berlin and maybe Somerset, it could mean another state team medal for the Lions.

2013-14: District 4 champion, State qualifier
Nate Secules, 14-22 at 106
Mike Alberico, 2-0 at 113
Brian Westbrook, 3-1 at 120
Clay Mosier, 11-21 at 126
Steven Yates, 22-8 at 138
David Knolles, 16-14 at 145
Dayton Wickwire, 36-9 at 160
Breycin Fulmer, 25-14 at 170
Kalob Benjamin, 4-4 at 182
Dakota Manning, 35-13 at 195

NOTES: Towanda's lineup has some tough spots, especially with Yates, Wickwire, and Manning. 

Fort LeBoeuf
2013-14: District 10 2nd place, State qualifier
Steve McGarvie, 2-0 at 106
Abe Guarriello, 29-16 at 106
Isaac Bengel, 16-9 at 113
Logan Kuzma, 12-4 at 113
Jarrette Carter, 31-10 at 120
Tyler Kuzma, 31-15 at 126
Shane Newell, 16-14 at 132
Sam Adams, 3-9 at 138
Jacob Lathrop, 5-16 at 160
Lane Reinwald, 3-10 at 170
Andrew Rose, 6-11 at 170
Garrett Reinwald, 40-10 at 195
Gabe Dylewski, 5-7 at 220

NOTES: Fort LeBoeuf's expected returnees resemble that of Saucon Valley, a lot of unknown names but a lot of names back means returning experience. FLB is usually a strong bet to get to Hershey, and if so, usually wrestles very well on the Giant Center mats.

Redbank Valley
2013-14: District 9 2nd place, State qualifier
Ryan Kube, 21-15 at 106
Scott Drenning, 5-8 at 113
Tanner Altobelli, 32-10 at 126
Kolbin Altobelli, 6-10 at 126
Austin Schreckengost, 2-10 at 132
Luke Gallo, 22-16 at 138
Jake Hopper, 5-15 at 152
Keshon Truitt, 19-14 at 160
Devin Schimp, 5-17 at 170
Brylee Shumaker, 22-11 at 195
Cal Haines, 27-6 at 220
Pat Crawford, 2-3 at 285

NOTES: Redbank Valley lost to district mate Brookville in a consolation match in Hershey last season. The top wrestlers on paper appear to be Tanner Altobelli and Haines.

South Fayette
2013-14: District 7 2nd place, State qualifier
Andrew John, 34-15 at 106
Jasper Wolfe, 20-12 at 113
Scott Rzepecki, 14-17 at 126
Mike Carr, 44-2 at 132, State 5th
Shane Ging, 29-19 at 138
Ben Previte, 14-10 at 145
Brett Beltz, 35-11 at 145
Camden Hoover, 2-1 at 145
J.J. Walker, 43-2 at 160, State 2nd, State 7th in 2013
Rausaun Culberson, 17-14 at 220
Jeremy Carter, 11-22 at 285
   Promising Newcomer: Mike Cusik (PJW 4th place)

NOTES: South Fayette is led by returning state medalists Carr and Walker. John, Wolfe, Ging, and Beltz also have good wins to their names in the past. I think the race in D7 should be interesting between Burrell, South Fayette, and Jefferson-Morgan.

2013-14: District 4 2nd place, State qualifier
Morgan Comini, 23-12 at 106
Cortland Stahl, 5-15 at 120
Jacob Strassner, 20-21 at 126
Keith Batkowski, 41-4 at 132
Nolan Ott, 32-13 at 138
Bryce O'Connor, 6-19 at 145
Michael Forney, 13-19 at 152
Triston Choate, 17-15 at 160
Garrett Hoffman, 44-5 at 170, State 6th
Ben Cerney, 37-10 at 220
   Promising Newcomer: Gavin Hoffman (Four-time PJW champion, six-time PJW placewinner)

NOTES: Montoursville fell to local Chestnut Ridge in the first day of the state duals last season. Batkowski was part of a very strong 132-pound bracket at the state tournament one month later, and was eliminated by Bedford's Ryan Easter in the consolations. My sources tell me that Gavin Hoffman is the real deal coming into varsity, and I've been told he's better than his brother, who finished sixth in the state at 170.

West Branch
2013-14: District 6 2nd place, State qualifier
Joey Couteret, 32-8 at 106
Hunter Parks, 14-18 at 120
Nathan Kristofits, 9-14 at 132
Kris Smeal, 7-5 at 152
Luke Slippey, 20-4 at 152
Clayton Green, 25-11 at 160
Conor Myers, 19-13 at 170
Vincent McDowell, 23-11 at 195
Buzzy Maines, 38-2 at 220, State 2nd

NOTES: West Branch should still be a player in the District 6 race, with a number of pretty good wrestlers back. That group is undoubtedly led by Maines, who was second in the state last season.

2013-14: District 7 3rd place, State qualifier
Damon Belford, 13-18 at 106
Brendan Howard, 35-10 at 113
Aaron Mylan, 11-22 at 120
Austin Goldsberry, 8-18 at 132
Trevor Kniha, 29-22 at 152
Jeremy Mayfield, 7-10 at 152
Parker Woodring, 2-9 at 160
Bill Bowlen, 40-6 at 170
Anthony Patterson, 18-9 at 195
Ian Wolfe, 32-11 at 285
   Promising Newcomer: Gavin Teasdale (Two-time PJW champion, four-time PJW placewinner)

NOTES: Jefferson-Morgan should be one of the top WPIAL AA programs. Howard was a state qualifier two seasons ago, and he, Bowlen, and Wolfe make up the strong points of the returning group of wrestlers. Teasdale, likely at 106, is a can't-miss stud I've been told. JM will be attending the Powerade Tournament in late December, switching from the Southmoreland Holiday Classic.

Wyalusing Valley
2013-14: District 4 3rd place, State qualifier
Taylor Schum, 4-9 at 106
Josh Haley, 38-7 at 106
Jacob Sandfort, 5-15 at 113
Tracey Brown, 16-18 at 120
Charles Stretch, 12-21 at 126
Collin Edsell, 38-5 at 132
Nevin Nolte, 3-3 at 138
Ryan Force, 14-12 at 138
Justin Haley, 30-8 at 145
Ryan Kipp, 16-20 at 160
Warner Mendoza, 17-17 at 195
Dylan Otis, 44-5 at 220, State 4th
Dalton Chilson, 44-8 at 285

NOTES: Wyalusing has good records in both Haley's, Esdell, Otis, and Chilson. 

2013-14: District 10 3rd place, State qualifier
Michael Lineman, 39-8 at 106
Jase Paxton, 37-12 at 113
Brandon Moss, 19-15 at 126
Blake Reynolds, 36-14 at 132
Gavin Wilkerson, 39-9 at 138
Gage Gladysz, 40-4 at 160
Zach Miller, 35-8 at 170
Mason Horne, 13-17 at 285

NOTES: Greenville, in a good District 10 with Reynolds, Fort LeBoeuf, and Saegertown, brings back six wrestlers with at least 35 wins each.

Other Potential Contenders

Berlin - District 5
Kyle Boyce, 13-20 at 106
Emil Kiesnowski, 2-4 at 113
Joey Swank, 33-6 at 120
Kane McKenzie, 25-18 at 132
Storm McDonald, 20-19 at 138
Braden Fochtman, 36-7 at 145
Taylor Cahill, 40-6 at 152
Bryce Fochtman, 35-8 at 160
Brody Moore, 8-5 at 170
Trevor Moore, 11-11 at 170
Shane Pepper, 22-13 at 182
Toby Cahill, 29-11 at 195
Anthony Collins, 27-11 at 285

NOTES: Berlin has another solid season shaping up and is expected to be Somerset County's top entry. Swank, both Fochtman's, and both Cahill's are the studs, while Collins is a tough heavyweight, and most of the others are proven commodities.

Bermudian Springs - District 3
Austin Clabaugh, 30-10 at 106
Bayley Oberlander, 25-8 at 113
Jarod Miller, 18-21 at 120
Ashton West, 12-10 at 126
Noah Fleshman, 5-4 at 132
Jason Townsend, 2-10 at 132
Phoenix Russell, 3-9 at 152
Briton Shelton, 41-4 at 160, State 4th, State 8th in 2013
Cody Rowland, 8-10 at 170
Sid Stauffer, 5-7 at 170
Colton Dull, 38-7 at 182, State 7th
Sam McCollum, 36-9 at 220, State 8th
Brady Linebaugh, 26-8 at 285

NOTES: Bermudian Springs should be really good and a contender to take the District 3 crown from rival Boiling Springs this season. Bermudian appears to be strong in the lower and upper areas of its lineup, with three state medalists back.

Saegertown - District 10
Dillon Auck, 12-17 at 106
Jarrett Ruhl, 19-16 at 113
Bingbong Elizon, 25-14 at 120
Jude Mattocks, 8-14 at 126
Tyler Vath, 37-8 at 132, State 4th, State 8th in 2013
Nick Monico, 37-12 at 138, State 6th, State 8th in 2013
Garrett Zuver, 27-17 at 152
Lance Neusscheler, 21-18 at 160
Daniel Simmerman, 11-18 at 170
Donald Baron, 5-6 at 170
Dylan Reynolds, 41-5 at 182, State 3rd, State 4th in 2013
Zach Stafford, 20-17 at 195
Joseph Boylan, 5-13 at 220
Jason Nageotte, 2-6 at 285
Dalton Gaerttner, 4-13 at 285
    Promising Newcomer: Cody Mulligan (PJW champion in 2014, four-time PJW placewinner)

NOTES: Vath, Monico, and Reynolds are all multiple state medalists and certainly lead Saegertown into battle this season. I said it last year and will say again - think if Spencer Lee and Devin Brown were still there. That would make the team even more formidable.

Southern Columbia - District 4
Shane Casey, 23-9 at 106
Noah Carl, 14-12 at 113
Todd Lane, 37-5 at 120, State 2nd
Kent Lane, 28-2 at 138, State 2nd, State 6th in 2013
Bryce Hager, 5-9 at 138
Blake Marks, 35-6 at 152, State 2nd, State 8th in 2013
Carter Houseknecht, 3-17 at 160
Connor Houseknecht, 16-10 at 160
Steve Toczylousky, 17-13 at 182
Chase Tillett, 5-10 at 182
Matt Fabian, 10-11 at 285
   Transfer: Billy Barnes, 42-1 at 145 for Williamson, State 2nd, State 6th in 2013
   Promising Newcomer: Jaret Lane

NOTES: Southern Columbia has a lot of top notch talent back and could be a sleeper, if not the favorite, in District 4. Todd Lane, Kent Lane, and Marks gave SC three state finalists last season. Throw in transfer Barnes from Williamson, and now the Tigers have four runner-ups. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Local Preseason Talk

   As we move closer to that first whistle of official practice (a little over 12 days now), here's some tidbits I've had in my mind for a while but just haven't had the time to put on paper or on here:

   I went back over my records from last year to make sure I was updated for the new season. After the state tournament ended in March, my coverage area for the Bedford Gazette, which is the six schools in the county plus Claysburg-Kimmel, had four more additions to the career 100-win club. That made it an even 60 members of the club overall.

   Of those 60, 15 of them have achieved the feat in the last five seasons, since the 09-10 campaign. That 25% mark is pretty impressive to me. There's no doubt that the schedule now is far different than it was when guys like Jan Clark were wrestling. Clark, a three-time state champion and four-time finalist at Northern Bedford, won 109 bouts when his high school career ended in the late 1970's. That number only ranks Clark 38th on the all-time victory list, but can you even argue that anybody locally has been better than him?
   Nowadays, there are so many more dual meets and especially tournaments where you can ring up four or five wins in one weekend. Many other aspects of the sport have changed, too.
   My only point here, and I've been thinking it for a few years before I broke down the latest numbers this week, is that the local area is producing quite a bit of talent. This season, and I'll detail some of it below, should see at least three more wrestlers join the 100-win club. And there's the possibility of many more in the upcoming seasons with the younger core of wrestlers we have at this point plus a number of others I know will be on the varsity mat in the near future.

Overall Top 5 Winningest Wrestlers
Bedford Gazette Area
1. Ty Dively, Claysburg-Kimmel, 146
2. James Dodson, Claysburg-Kimmel, 141 (tie)
2. Ryan Easter, Bedford, 141 (tie)
2. Jarrett Musselman, Claysburg-Kimmel, 141 (tie)
5. Adam Whetstone, Claysburg-Kimmel, 139

Bedford County Schools
1. Ryan Easter, Bedford, 141
2. Tyler Dibert, Chestnut Ridge, 138
3. Josh Snyder, Hyndman, 132
4. Brian Gibbons, Bedford, 129
5. Jake Bennett, Hyndman, 128 (tie)
5. Cory Thomas, Bedford, 128 (tie)

The Upcoming Season
   Certainly, the graduation of Easter, Bedford teammate Garrett Thomas, Chestnut Ridge's Austin Buttry, and others means we'll be talking putting some other names in the spotlight beginning next month. But there's no shortage of star power. Here's a look at a few of the returnees:

Jonathan Gabriel, Bedford (Jr.): 29-6 last season, State runner-up
   It has to begin with Bedford lightweight Jonathan Gabriel, who put together a stellar run in Hershey to reach the Class AA 113-pound championship bout. After the regional tournament, I really didn't know what to expect at states from the talented Gabriel, and in my picks for the top eight finishers, I didn't choose him. He had suffered an injury to which I had been told he was far less than 100% by the time he hit the Giant Center mats for the open workout the night before the tournament began.
   But Gabriel made a mockery of my picks at 113, first with a hard-fought 2-1 win, then a technical fall and a thrilling semifinal pin. In the finals against Bethlehem Catholic's Luke Karam, I thought Gabriel was the more aggressive of the two, but he found himself constantly having his arms trapped which limited his offensive scoring ability in a 5-0 loss.
   The last state champion from Bedford was Ron Hamilton in 1964. That's a long, long drought, but Gabriel definitely has the tools to be the one to finally break through.

Aaron Burkett, Chestnut Ridge (Jr.): 38-8 last season, State 6th place
   The other returning state medalist to the area is Chestnut Ridge's Aaron Burkett, who made a run to the semifinals before placing sixth at 106 pounds. One of the lasting images I have from the 2014 state tournament is that of Burkett's quarterfinal pin over Lancaster Catholic's Joe Lobeck. That bout took place in front of the media table, but I had made my way over to Mat 3 for Gabriel's quarterfinal, which was about to begin as Lobeck was looking like a sure winner over Burkett in their quarter. I looked over in time to see Burkett deck Lobeck with a cement job in the final seconds of the bout, and the ensuing celebration with Lions' head coach Greg Lazor and assistant Josh Deputy. It was quite a happy scene. Burkett had his chances to win that night's semifinal before a 3-1 loss to eventual champ Jake Reigel.
   Chestnut Ridge has had only one two-time state placewinner, Gary Pfahler. Burkett can join him, and go after a school record third medal next winter.

Conner Buttry, Chestnut Ridge (Jr.): 36-9 last season, State qualifier
   Chestnut Ridge junior Conner Buttry should be one of the top upperweights around this season. Going at 182 last postseason, Buttry had a solid run to the state tournament and won a bout there to finish in the top 12. Buttry won 36 times as a sophomore, a strong gain from a 17-win season the year before. And he also was coming off a pretty severe knee injury as well. Like his older brother Austin, he's not going to physically scare anybody on the weight scales. But he makes up for it with his intangibles, and he has an outstanding chance to become the school's 13th different state placewinner.

Derrick Claar, Chestnut Ridge (Sr.): 32-8 last season, Regional qualifier
   The closest to being the next member of the 100-win club is Chestnut Ridge senior Derrick Claar, who currently sits at 98. Claar is still looking at an elusive first trip to the state tournament. I'd bet that he gets there this season. While he's put up a number of impressive wins over the years, the regional tournament has been a puzzle for Claar (and teammate Trent Crouse) that he can't figure out. Maybe the venue change from the Cambria County War Memorial to IUP will make a difference. As silly as that sounds, I wonder sometimes if things like that are really true. We've seen it before with kids we think are championship contenders. However the individual season plays out, Claar will be one of the headliners for Lazor's talented group of Lions.

Trent Crouse, Chestnut Ridge (Sr.): 30-8 last season, Regional qualifier
   Speaking of Crouse, he's another of Lazor's guns that could and should be in Hershey come the final weekend of the season in March. As much of an all-out, go at all times wrestler as maybe I've ever seen, Crouse has also produced quite the resume, and he should crack the 100-win plateau early in the season. Remember that as a freshman, Crouse beat state placewinners Zach Swarrow and Ryan Easter in the semifinals and finals of the Thomas Tournament. Then he beat Easter again a week later in the District 5 Duals. And his battles with Bedford's Garrett Thomas are very memorable.
   Like Claar, it would be a surprise to not see Crouse in the state tournament field. Of course, that's been my logic the past few seasons and the opposite has been the case. But I think things will change for both of them this time.

Lucas Kolinchak, Northern Bedford (Jr.): 26-9, Regional qualifier
   Along with Buttry, I wrote on several occasions last season that Kolinchak was as improved as any wrestler I saw locally. A year after going 6-11, Kolinchak won 20 more times and came within one victory of the state tournament at 170 pounds. The Northern Bedford junior made a believer out of me with his overall performance in 2013-14. I expect more headlines to come from the Panther this winter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An Early Look

   As you can see by the handy countdown clock I've posted on the blog, we are less than 20 days away from the official start of high school wrestling practices. Of course, with wrestling becoming more and more of a year-round sport, most kids and coaches (and media such as myself) have been gearing up for days and weeks if not months at this point.
   I see that Eric Knopsnyder is preparing a master list of teams and returning wrestlers from around this area for publishing on his blog, Knop's Knotes, in the near future. Eric does a great job with this, and I'm sure that he would agree with Tom Elling getting a huge hat tip for his annual work in his Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook. It is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to be connected to the sport. For anyone interested in obtaining a copy of this year's book, visit and go to the link he has listed for ordering. I believe there are still copies available.
   As was the case last year, I leave that heavy lifting to Eric. I began my blog a year after him and my vision never was to be a competitor to him, rather just an extra resource in the area to discuss the sport. My real job at the Bedford Gazette has its limitations, as the paper is not readily available at most locations outside of Bedford County, and our website is fully subscription based. Aside from trying to provide the best local coverage I can in the Gazette and on here, I do like to discuss wrestling topics from around the region and around the state. From the response I've received from many of you, I feel confident that the blog has become an additional place to visit for information and opinion.
   I haven't always been sure how many of the Somerset and/or Cambria County folks, those who are more in Eric's coverage area, were frequenting my site over the past few years. But I did hear last night that Eric's parents, two of Berlin's finest sports fans whom I've never met, asked about me and whether my blog would still be up and running this season. Maybe I should ask them which blog they like better. (Just kidding, Eric)
  Whatever the case, I appreciate the support, whether you're from Meyersdale, Patton, Saxton or anywhere in between.
   Again, get Elling's book or see an upcoming post on Eric's blog for team information. But here's some of my opening thoughts as the season approaches quickly:

Chestnut Ridge or Berlin
   So who will reign in District 5? - Chestnut Ridge and Berlin are the likely players again. The Lions welcome back a lot of firepower, with state medalist Aaron Burkett included from last season and Greg Lazor's bunch should be very formidable if all the weights figure themselves out. Many are also anxiously awaiting the debut of Chestnut Ridge freshman Justin McCoy, as am I.
   Berlin returns three state qualifiers and some strong talent itself. The Mountaineers did take a hit though with the offseason transfer of upperweight Nate Zanoni to Somerset.

Marko Returns to Varsity Mats
   After a year away on the varsity level, veteran coach Dave Marko is back in the head chair as the coach at Martinsburg Central. The former Claysburg head, who built the Bulldog program into a perennial small-school power, inherits a good nucleus at Central that should include the return of Jordan Quarello, who showed promise as a freshman before sitting out last year with an injury.

Looking Ahead
   For anyone wanting to see a glance at the state's Class AA Team Bracket for 2015, here it is. Remember that Bethlehem Catholic (District 11) will be in Class AAA for the next two years.

See You Soon
   Stay tuned for more on this blog as my time warrants and expect full coverage once the season begins.