District 9 Class 3A wrestling preview:
(Photo: Ed Scott won a PIAA title last year for DuBois. The North Carolina State recruit is bumping up to 152 pounds this year from 138 last season)
Bradford Owls (2-13 dual meet record)
Coach Jamie Miller’s Owls squad is heavy on underclassmen populated by a majority of freshmen and sophomores. That being noted, Miller has high hopes for a good season and a full line-up once everybody gets to their projected weights. The Owls do have some senior leadership to lead the way with Derek Sunafrank (26-10) being most recognized. Sunafrank was a district runner-up last season making the trip to regionals at 182 pounds. Miller projects Sunafrank at 170 pounds this season. Sophomore Brett Thompson (22-8) will be moving from 126 pounds to 138 pounds. Miller has tagged sophomore 285 pounder Dylan Mazzone (7-17) as another key returner. Mark Havers is the Owls’ assistant coach.
Cranberry Berries (9-3 dual meet record)
Sophomore Brayden Crocker (30-4) had an impressive varsity debut last season making the trip to Hershey for the state tournament after finishing first at districts and second at regionals. Crocker started the season at 220 pounds but made his run as a 195 pounder. FloWrestling has him ranked fourth in the state at 195 pounds, although a football injury could limit him. FloWrestling also has two other of Coach Dustin Wenner’s grapplers ranked; Carter Stanley (21-12) is 17th at 120 pounds and Trey Wright (16-11) 13th at 285. Stanley, a three-time regional qualifier, has finished no lower than third at districts thus far in his career. Wright was a regional qualifier last season. Wenner has four other returning regional qualifiers on his roster – seniors Jacob Umstead (23-9) and Daniel Wry (16-15) and juniors Xavier Barton (2-11) and Evan Hepler (9-16). Umstead (23-9) was district runner-up at 106 pounds, while Wry qualified for regionals at 160 pounds, Barton at 220 pounds, and Hepler at 120 pounds. Darren Wenner and Mike Crocker are Cranberry’s assistant coaches.
Clearfield Bison (10-7 dual meet record)
Coach Jeff Aveni has a young, athletic line-up that mixes youth with experience. The Bison have a quartet of talented sophomores led by Mark McGonigal (30-10). Though he wrestled at 160 and 170 pounds last season, he made his postseason run to states at 152 pounds. McGonigal didn’t place at states, but he did win the district championship and finished second at regionals. FloWrestling currently has him ranked 20th at 152 pounds, though Aveni has tabbed his as the team’s 170 pounder. The other members of the sophomore quartet, Nolan Barr (22-15), Oliver Billotte (15-9), and Karson Kline (26-6) all earned regional berths by taking third at districts. Barr spent his freshman year at 113 pounds but will be moving to 126 pounds. Billotte wrestled at 220 pounds but dropped to 195 for the postseason. He is projected as the Bison’s 220 pounder. Kline wrestled at 120 pounds last season but will apparently being bumping up to 138 pounds this year. Another sophomore to keep an eye on according to Aveni will be Luke Freeland (18-17). He competed as a 126 pounder last season but is making the leap to 145 pounds. Aveni does have some upperclassmen who could make some noise. Senior Brett Zattoni (11-23) qualified for regionals a season ago. Depending on the situation, he wrestled anywhere between 170 pounds and 195 pounds last season. This time around he will at least start at 195 pounds. Another senior, Peyton Smay (6-20), was a regional qualifier as a freshman and sophomore. He looks to retain his 132-pound spot from a year ago. Aveni is anticipating the return to his lineup of junior Nick Domico (13-12), currently out with an injury. Domico wrestled in the classes between 182 pounds and 220 pounds. It won’t be a surprise if Aveni plays the “bumping game” with a few of his wrestlers again this season in order to put the best dual meet line-up out on the mat. Aveni will be assisted in his coaching duties by Brent Lykens, Andy Squires, Nate Sipes, Myles Caregain, and Scott McKenzie.
DuBois Beavers (14-6 dual meet record)
First-year head coach Ed Scott Sr. is taking the helm of an experienced squad that will contend for the District 4/9 team championships and a trip to the state duals. And, if the past is any indication, a host of these grapplers who should also earn individual accolades this postseason. The Beavers return three wrestlers who ended their seasons in Hershey last time out most notable reigning 138-pound state champ Ed Scott Jr. (39-0). A North Carolina State commit, Scott is expected to go at 152 pounds this season. A three-time state qualifier, Scott, currently ranked first in his weight class by FloWrestling, will be looking not only to repeat as state champion but also claim his fourth consecutive district and regional titles. Two-time state qualifier Trenton Donahue (37-8) should man the 132-pound spot. The senior, who placed sixth at 126 pounds in Hershey, is six wins shy of reaching 100 for his career. Ranked fifth by FloWrestling, Donahue will be trying to earn his third consecutive district crown and reclaim the regional title after finishing third a season ago. Taking Scott’s place at 138 pounds in the line-up will be another state qualifier, junior Chandler Ho (26-13). Ranked 11th by FloWrestling at 120 pounds, Ho won districts as a freshman and placed second as a sophomore. Senior heavyweight Alex O’Hara (26-11), a three-time regional qualifier, will look to claim his first district champions after finishing fourth as a freshman, third as a sophomore, and second as a junior. FloWrestling has O’Hara ranked eighth in the state at 285 pounds. Another state-ranked wrestler on the Beavers’ roster is junior Garrett Starr (25-11), who FloWrestling has 19th at 160 pounds. Despite qualifying for regionals last year at 160 pounds, Coach Scott projects Starr at 182 pounds. Senior Gauge Gulvas (14-16) made the trip to regionals at 152 pounds last season but is expected to be at 160 pounds this campaign. Coach Scott is excited about several sophomores, including Ryan White (5-21), Austin Mitchell (who took fifth in junior high states last season), Andrea Wilmuth (who won a state girls’ championship a season ago), and Brendan Orr. Despite his wrestlers’ previous success on the mat, Coach Scott feels all could improve technically, particularly when it comes to getting into scoring positions and controlling matches. Assistant coaches will include Denny Nosker, Tony Greer, Troy Braddock, and Garrett Brown.
Punxsutawney Chucks (3-19 dual meet record)
Coach Eric Eddy has a relatively small squad but reports everything is working hard and giving it all they have. Though generally lacking in varsity experience, Eddy’s roster does feature a trio of regional qualifiers, all juniors; Garrett Eddy (26-11), Joshua Miller (21-12), and Ben Skarbek (16-16). Eddy, the most successful of the trio, is ranked 16th by FloWrestling at 182 pounds. He will be bumping up to 195 pounds this season. Miller was the Chucks’ 195 pounder, while Skarbek wrestled most of last season at 120 pounds before ending at 113. Eddy expects Miller to float between 195 pounds and 220 pounds, with Skarbek moving up to wrestle at 126 pounds and 132 pounds. Eddy will be joined on the bench by Dan Smith, DJ Gould, and Mark Miller.
Saint Marys Flying Dutchmen (3-8 dual meet record)
The Dutchmen won a lot of individual bouts during dual meets last season, however, their overall record doesn’t reflect this because they also had to forfeit quite a few as well. Coach Dominic Surra is, therefore, looking forward to filling most of the weight classes this season. His team has a nice balance of talented first-year wrestlers as well as a solid core of grapplers who have gone deep into the postseason. Junior Jeremy Garthwaite (20-11) won districts last season at 182 pounds but is anticipated to go at 195 this time around. Seniors Gregory Tettis (10-9), John Wittman (22-11), Tylor Herzing (19-8) and junior Marco Paropacic (12-12) have all made two trips to the NW Regional Tournament, though each has yet to break through and qualify for states. Tettis will be at 145 pounds year. Wittman, who finished third at districts as a sophomore and second as a junior, is moving up from 152 pounds to 160 pounds. Herzing has seen his share of success at the district level, taking second as a freshman, third as a sophomore, and second a year ago. After finishing last season at 138 pounds, Surra has him slotted into the 152-pound spot this campaign. Paropacic is bumping up from 126 pounds to 138 pounds. Other grapplers that have advanced to the regional tournament include Nick Crisp (17-9), who will be jumping from 145 pounds to 170 pounds, and sophomore 106 pounder Lane Dellaquilla (15-11). Surra is also looking forward to big things from his projected starter at 126 pounds, senior Connor Gausman (2-3). Assistant coaches are Pat Herzing, Brian Fenton, Dan Snelick, Steve Simchick, and Sam Miller.