It’s heating up. I don’t mean the weather here in Pennsylvania, where Septembers are hotter than Julys. It’s ramping up. School’s in, the practice schedule is picking up and the old questions are popping up. “Where’s his weight at? How’s that new freshman looking?” Wrestling season is on its way.
News and Notes
In a move that should surprise no one, one of the state’s top wrestlers, Jarod Verkleeren, has transferred. After a weight-certification/wrestle-off controversy last season at Belle Vernon, the Verkleeren family filed an unsuccessful suit against the school district and coaching staff. Verkleeren, who recently committed to wrestle at Iowa State, is now enrolled in Hempfield and has been ruled eligible for the coming year by the WPIAL.
Eric Mausser has stepped down at Franklin Regional after 10 successful years as head coach. The Panthers won back-to-back state championships under Mausser, who was named USA Today Wrestling Coach of the Year in 2015. Mausser left to take a principal job in the Mercer Area school district.
Two-time state medalist Francis Duggan has transferred from North Allegheny to Cedar Cliff High School. Duggan left Cumberland Valley for North Allegheny before his sophomore year and returns to District 3 as a contender for a state title.
Blair Academy standout, Ryan Karoly, is now at Malvern Prep. Karoly, a double Fargo Cadet champion in 2016, is expected to compete at 182 for the Friars.
The Waterway Duals has grown from a nice start to the school year into a battle of hammers from the Mid-Atlantic region. NCAA stars Kyle Snyder, Nico Megaludis, Nick Gwiazdowski, and Zain Retherford, among others, have competed in recent years as well as high school standouts like two-time Cadet world champion Yianni Diakomihalis and Sammy Sasso. This year proved no different as 22 talented teams collided in Oxford, PA.
The finals featured two-time defending champ Bison Legend squaring off with the Escape the Rock dual team. Bison Legend cruised to the finals, winning its first three matches handily against Pennsylvania teams, while Escape the Rock survived a close call with New York’s Iowa Style Gold before besting Triumph of New Jersey to set up the championship match.
At 106, Escape the Rock jumped out on top behind Fargo All-American Anthony Clark’s (Delbarton) 4-1 victory over Shikellamy’s Cade Balestrini. Bison Legend was a heavy favorite at 113 with Fargo Champ Jaret Lane facing incoming freshman Dayton DelViscio (Penncrest). DelViscio gamely grabbed an early lead before succumbing to a patented Lane headlock, giving Bison Legend the lead. At 120, Virginia’s Killian Cardinale tied the team score with a solid 5-1 victory over PA medalist Bronson Garber. A forfeit at 126 put Bison Legend’s back in front, 12-6, setting up some interesting match-ups.
In a battle of nationally ranked competitors at 132, Central Dauphin’s Andrew Wert used a last-second escape in the second period and a buzzer-beating takedown to best Zack Trampe (Council Rock South) in sudden victory. Bison Legend’s Sammy Hepler prevailed with a takedown and back points in the last five seconds to erase a one point deficit to Wyatt Long (Cumberland Valley) and give his team an 18-6 lead. Belle Vernon junior Zach Hartmann followed at 145 with an impressive 12-2 major decision over PA medalist Colin Cronin, and Bison Legend, having swept three straight critical matches, was on its way to victory.
Bison Legend followed with three more victories as Brock Port (Bellefonte) edged Huntingdon’s Tyler Scott at 152, Quentin Milliken (Cumberland Valley) defeated Scott’s teammate, Seth Baney, 5-2; and Mifflin County’s Trent Hidlay scored a 13-5 major decision over Queen of Peace sophomore Jacob Cardenas.
Escape the Rock got back on the board as Fargo All-American Miles Lee (South Philadelphia) erased an early deficit with two takedowns to narrowly defeat Ty Bagoly (Exeter) 6-5 at 189. PA State Champion Gavin Hoffman and medalist Joey Doyle (Council Rock South) waged an exciting war at 285 featuring several scrambles not often seen among big men, with Hoffman prevailing 3-1 in sudden victory to cap Bison Legend’s third straight title at Waterway.
Five other PA wrestlers, besides Verkleeren, have committed to D1 colleges since the last round-up. Max Murin (Central Cambria) is heading to Iowa and Dallas Bulsak (South Park) stayed local with his commitment to Pitt. Drexel nabbed a pair of commitments in Austin DeSanto (Exeter) and Chandler Olson (Shippensburg). Bishop McDevitt’s John Pipa will be taking his talents on the mat and in the classroom to Princeton.
Spotlight On: Malvern Preparatory School
Nestled in bucolic Chester County in southeastern Pennsylvania, Malvern Prep is not a school with a storied wrestling history. Head Coach Nate Lauter and his staff, however, are trying to write a new chapter in that book. After having placed in the Top 10 at the National Prep Championships only once in 45 years, Malvern has finished there every year since 2012. Last year’s third place finish behind national powers Wyoming Seminary and Blair Academy was the highest in school history. This year’s team has set its sights even higher.
Lauter, a Malvern alum and Franklin & Marshall wrestler, came to the school as an assistant under Chris McKeon and moved his Tiger Elite wrestling club to Malvern. The youth program, which is assisted by former PSU wrestler Todd Brennan, laid the foundation for the success seen at the varsity level today. Jordan Wood, Joey Galasso, and NCAA All-American Casey Kent are just a few of the standouts who have passed through the Malvern room in recent years, as well as most of the high school current varsity lineup.
Lead assistant Nate Wachter also wrestled at PSU, while Franklin & Marshall All-American Ricky Durso joins a staff this year that also includes Mazen Kholi and Tyler McBride. They have talent to work with in a young lineup anchored by National Prep champs Michael Beard, Seth Janney, and transfer Ryan Karoly. Shane Hanson-Ashworth was a finalist in 2015, with Mark Salvatore, PJ Crane, and Nick Florschutz returning as Prep All-Americans. Malvern is also bolstered by newcomers Micah Visuwan, Dalton Harkins, and Connor Quinn. Visuwan, who qualified for the PA state championships as a freshman, sat out the postseason last year, while Harkins and Quinn were PA junior high standouts.
The Friars will be a strong tournament team with Karoly, Beard, and Janney giving them three potential finalists in any tournament field. Malvern’s bevy of returning National Prep All-Americans makes its lineup formidable in a dual meet as well. This year’s schedule features the Ironman, Beast, Easton Duals, Escape the Rock, and FLO’s Who’s #1 Duals leading to the postseason. A Top 10 national finish looks reasonable with a good season. A National Prep championship over Blair and Wyoming Seminary would cap a great one.
Malvern’s future looks bright with only two seniors on this year’s squad and a number of heralded youth wrestlers enrolled at Malvern’s middle school. Lauter says his seventh grade wrestlers “might be his best class yet,” so look for the Friars to be a player on the national scene in the coming years.