Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Final Countdown


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 www.pawrsl.com 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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Claysburg Dual Tourney coming together

    Claysburg-Kimmel will be hosting a dual meet tournament on January 17, and is looking for at least one team and possibly up to three more. There are seven teams in the field currently: Claysburg, Central, Forest Hills, Glendale, Marion Center, Johnstown, and Juniata Valley.
    Please contact CK head coach Dave Aungst at 814-381-5860 if interested.
    This tournament basically replaces the Glendale Duals, which were cancelled for this season. Instead, Glendale will go to Claysburg and many of the other teams that were on the card for that event are coming also.

Monday, October 13, 2014

PA kids in national rankings

    In the latest edition of WIN Magazine, plenty of Pennsylvania wrestlers are listed in the outlet's Preseason National Rankings (Top 20 at each weight). Those kids are below:

106 Pounds
16. Matt Parker, Pennridge (Class AAA)
17. Max Murin, Central Cambria (Class AA)
20. Gavin Teasdale, Jefferson-Morgan (Class AA)

113 Pounds
1. Devin Brown, Franklin Regional (Class AAA)
20. Trent Olson, Wyoming Seminary (Prep)

120 Pounds
1. Spencer Lee, Franklin Regional (Class AAA)
6. Jack Mueller, Wyoming Seminary (Prep)
13. Luke Karam, Bethlehem Catholic (Class AAA)

126 Pounds
2. Luke Pletcher, Latrobe (Class AAA)
20. George Phillippi, Derry (Class AA)

132 Pounds
3. A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg Central (Class AAA)
13. Sam Krivus, Hempfield (Class AAA)

138 Pounds
4. Cameron Coy, Penn-Trafford (Class AAA)

145 Pounds
2. Vincenzo Joseph, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (Class AAA)
4. Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional (Class AAA)
6. Patrick Duggan, Cumberland Valley (Class AAA)
17. Hayden Hidlay, Mifflin County (Class AAA)
18. Jared Verkleeren, Belle Vernon (Class AAA)

152 Pounds
4. Josh Shields, Franklin Regional (Class AAA)
12. Billy Barnes, Southern Columbia (Class AA)
13. Cole Walter, Mifflinburg (Class AA)
17. D.J. Hollingshead, Altoona (Class AAA)

160 Pounds
3. Chris Weiler, Wyoming Seminary (Prep)
4. Zach Kelly, Kiski School (Prep)
5. Josh Maruca, Franklin Regional (Class AAA)

170 Pounds
5. Nick Reenan, Wyoming Seminary (Prep)
16. J.J. Walker, South Fayette (Class AA)

182 Pounds
10. Christian Dietrich, Wyoming Seminary (Prep)
12. Dylan Reynolds, Saegertown (Class AA)
15. Kellan Stout, Mt. Lebanon (Class AAA)

195 Pounds
5. L.J. Barlow, Haverford (Prep)
6. Jan Johnson, Governor Mifflin (Class AAA)

220 Pounds
3. Jordan Wood, Boyertown (Class AAA)
11. Buzzy Maines, West Branch (Class AA)
12. Andrew Dunn, Bethlehem Catholic (Class AAA)

285 Pounds
11. Michael Rogers, Wyoming Seminary (Prep)
20. Allan Beattie, Burrell (Class AA)

   - Have heard Teasdale at 106 is an absolute stud, and I've seen him much higher in other polls, so a little surprised here that he's the third PA wrestler ranked there. Murin won a D6 and SW Region title before placing fifth at AA states. Parker, one spot above, lost in his SE AAA regional quarterfinal and didn't get to states last season. I realize that most of these magazines/websites utilize offseason events as ranking criteria, so maybe Parker's done something big that I don't know about.

   - Remember that Bethlehem Catholic is up in AAA this season and next, so Karam and Dunn will be wrestling in college before the locals have to deal with them again.

   - Nice to see the region (meaning D5 and D6) represented well with Murin, Hidlay, Hollingshead, and Maines.

   - Not sure if Rogers is a legit 285 in weight since he went the prep school way, but I remember the former Penns Valley standout competing more in the 170-182 range a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sines taking over Hornets

    Chadd Sines will still be coaching wrestling in District 5, but he'll be working out of a different zip code this coming season.
   The former Meyersdale coach is the new head man at HOPE for Hyndman Charter School, where he takes over for Jake Snyder, who stepped down after the 2013-14 season.
    Sines, who is also now employed by the Bedford County school as a science teacher, inherits a program that is low in numbers but does have some individual talent. Expected back are four wrestlers - Cameron Gibbner, Tanner Clites, Robby Snyder, and Brandon Greise - that each won at least 19 bouts last winter.
    Taking over for Sines at Meyersdale is Mike Swick, who was an assistant coach with the Red Raiders. Swick should get off to a nice start in his stint as he has top wrestlers in district champion Ty Smith, district runner-up Christian Hutzell, and Brady McKenzie expected to return.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

SW Regional Venue Change

   After hearing some rumors, I was able to confirm that this season's Southwest Regional wrestling tournament will not be held at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
   The 2015 version, set for late February, will be staged at Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Kovalchick Athletic Complex. I confirmed this information with tournament director Terry Diehl of Bedford.
   The regional tournament may also be held on Thursday and Friday, February 26-27, instead of the traditional Friday-Saturday format. Diehl said details are still being worked out regarding days and times. The PSAC is holding its conference basketball tournament beginning on that Saturday, and it is possible the IUP teams could host first round games.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Friday Morning Ryder Cup Analysis

   The 40th Ryder Cup begins Friday morning at the Gleneagles Centenary Course in Scotland. The bieennial competition pits 12 golfers from the United States against 12 players from Europe. Overall, the U.S. leads 25-12-2, but Europe has won seven of the last nine times. Two-man teams on Friday and Saturday, and singles on Sunday are all played under a blind draw.

   Friday AM: 4 best-ball (fourball) matches
   Friday PM: 4 alternate shot (foursome) matches
   Saturday AM: 4 best-ball matches
   Saturday PM: 4 alternate shot matches
   Sunday: 12 singles matches

   There are 28 points available in the event, one point for each match won and a half a point to each side if tied. As the defending champion, Europe needs only 14 points to retain possession of the Ryder Cup. The United States needs 14 1/2 points to win it back. The 2016 Ryder Cup Matches will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota.

Friday's Morning Analysis
Match 1 (all times Eastern)
   2:35 a.m. - Bubba Watson/Webb Simpson, U.S. vs. Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson, Europe - Not a real surprise that American captain Tom Watson is going with this pairing. Of his three captain's picks for the Ryder Cup, Simpson was maybe the most controversial, but pairing him with Bubba only makes sense in the fourball format. The two won both of their fourball matches paired with each other two years ago, both of them by 5&4 blowout style.
   Advantage: I like Watson and Simpson here. Bubba is an enigmatic personality at times and you never know what's going through his mind. That said, the man can flat out bomb the ball off the tee and play great golf. Two Masters titles in the past three years tells you that. Simpson provides that steady hand to go alongside.

   2:50 a.m. - Rickie Fowler/Jimmy Walker, U.S. vs. Thomas Bjorn/Martin Kaymer, Europe - The first of Watson's rookies is here with Walker, a three-time winner earlier this year on the PGA Tour. He is paired with Fowler, who finished in the top five of all the major championships in 2014. Fowler made headlines before departing for Scotland by having the letters USA put on the side of his head after a new haircut. On the other side, Bjorn is one of the feel-good stories of this year's Ryder Cup, as he qualified for his first team since the 2001 version, which was played in 2002 due to the September 11 attacks. Kaymer, who holed the winning putt in Europe's comeback victory two years ago, dominated in winning the U.S. Open this summer but hasn't done much since.
   Advantage: Again, I'll take the American side here in a close match. Fowler hasn't won a whole lot on tour, but he's probably our best player right now. He and Walker have reportedly wanted to play with each other, so here's their first opportunity.

   3:05 a.m. - Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed, U.S. vs. Stephen Gallacher/Ian Poulter, Europe - What an intriguing matchup here. Three rookies in this group along with the most successful Ryder Cup player in recent times. There will plenty of roars from the crowd for the European tandem, as Gallacher is the only Scot in the event and lives just 35 miles from the site. All Poulter has done is go unbeaten in his last seven Ryder Cup matches, dating back to 2010. Spieth (21) and Reed (24) are 45 years old combined, and come in as decided underdogs.
   Advantage: Hard not to give Europe a point in this one. I have that penciled in to my predictions, but I'm not completely overlooking the American side. Gallacher and Poulter have all the pressure on them here, with rookie Gallacher being so close to home, and Poulter being so good in Ryder Cup play. Yet Poulter hasn't done much of anything good this year in golf, while Spieth and Reed both had solid seasons in the United States. It's only one point out of 28 overall, but if Spieth and Reed could win this match or even manage a draw, it would be an early momentum swing toward the Americans.

   3:20 a.m. - Keegan Bradley/Phil Mickelson, U.S. vs. Rory McIlroy/Sergio Garcia, Europe - I talk a lot about there being wrestlers who are called "studs." Well, in this year's Ryder Cup, this is your "stud" matchup. Bradley and Mickelson went 3-0 as a duo two years ago, and also had success at last year's Presidents Cup. That said, both have had subpar years, and Mickelson would have needed a captain's pick to make the team had he not posted a high finish at the PGA Championship. Lefty qualified on points for his 10th straight Ryder Cup. Meanwhile, McIlroy broke off his engagement to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki and then went on a golfing tear, winning the British Open and PGA Championship along with a World Golf Championship event during a month-long stretch this summer to get back to being the top ranked player in the world. His teammate for this one, Garcia, rather quietly had a good year and is currently ranked third.
   Advantage: As much as I'd love to see Bradley and Mickelson continue their winning ways, I'm going with McIlroy and Garcia. They're just playing better right now, bottom line. After nearly missing his tee time two years ago, McIlroy beat Bradley in the singles format.

   Surprises: I'm a little surprised that Matt Kuchar is sitting out the early session for the U.S. He won a pair of fourball matches in 2012. But hey, four guys have to sit each time, and I like the idea of Watson getting all three first-timers into the mix from the get-go.

Friday Morning Prediction: United States 2, Europe 2
Overall Prediction: United States 15, Europe 13