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

Friday, March 28, 2014

No Sense in 20-man bracket

   The PIAA has made a number of changes in both team and individual wrestling over the past few years, and I've been quite outspoken against them.
   Yet again, I find myself on the other side of the fence as it appears another change, negative in my opinion, is forthcoming.
   This week, the steering committee moved to expand the individual brackets in Hershey from 16 to 20 in each weight class, both Class AA and Class AAA. It was approved by unanimous decision, and the PIAA Board of Directors will vote on the matter in May. If passed, the change goes into effect for next season. What it means specifically is that each region will get one additional state qualifier. So in Class AA, the Southeast and Southwest Regionals will each get six representatives, while the Northeast and Northwest Regionals will each get four.
   According to Executive Director Bob Lombardi, who was quoted by Pennlive's Jeremy Elliott, the board will likely pass the motion without much opposition.
   Bad move.
   Lombardi goes on to say that the field is pretty deep and the addition of four wrestlers won't hurt the tournament's integrity or timing.
   He also mention's the state championship won by Bethlehem Catholic's Jake Riegel at 106 pounds in Class AA. Riegel was a fifth place finisher in the Southeast Regional the week before.
   Riegel had a fantastic tournament, and he got hot at the right time. Bravo, let's tip our cap to him, not use it as a basis to say a sixth place regional placer deserves more.
   I haven't had the time to research how many fourth or fifth place regional finishers have won state titles (maybe this will be my summer project), but Riegel's accomplishment is by far the exception rather than the rule.
   It makes absolutely no sense in my mind to make this change just for a few rare examples.
   Regarding the timing, and I'm assuming Lombardi means the state tournament schedule, remember that the PIAA made changes three years ago to the format. Main reason there: Oh yeah, timing. There was very little time between Class AA and Class AAA sessions, especially on the Saturday of the event.
   While no mention of a new schedule has been proposed should the bracket change take effect, are we to assume that the days will be longer. Probably. Are we looking at an 8 a.m. start on Thursday and Friday, or even 7 a.m., which means like 6 a.m. weigh-ins? Or is a Wednesday night start or a Sunday finish under consideration?
  My other real problem: This doesn't just affect the state tournament. It means the place bouts at regional tournaments become watered down. Now, instead of go-or-go home situations in fifth place bouts at the Southeast and Southwest Regionals, and third place bouts in the Northeast and Northwest, all those wrestlers involved that deep in the tournament have already punched their ticket to Hershey.
   Those bouts are among the most exciting ones all season long.
   I really like the quote of Boiling Springs head coach Rod Wright in Elliott's piece, which you can see at
   Wright says: "How about working harder? How about wrestling harder? How about training harder?"
   My thoughts exactly.
   Unfortunately. we live in a society that, it seems at least in athletics, is becoming more of a "Let's give everyone a medal for participation" mentality, rather than rewarding more for hard work and values that make our youth better people through sports in whatever they choose to do later in life.
   My main message to the PIAA: If it ain't broke, don't fix it!