HERSHEY — With respect to the showing of Hazleton Area’s Jimmy Hoffman at the PIAA Championships, a record-low number of participants from District 2 turned into a near-record low of medals for the district at the state tournament.
The district took home just two medals, the lowest for the area since claiming two in 1997, which was also the last time D2 was shutout in medals in Class 2A and both were won in the 3-A event.
What that means is all the wrestlers from the district have much more work to do, Tunkhannock coach Bob Hegedty said.
“We gotta work harder,” he said. “Everyone wants to stay kinda close but the reality of it is we have to get out of the area and wrestle in other districts and see what’s out there and see how you can compare yourself and just keep working to get better.”
That is one way to do it.
The coaches from D2 are doing something right though because just last year more than two dozen grapplers — including a record 15 from the WVC — reached the state tournament, and nine of them walked away with a medal meaning that the performance from the 2016 group could be a fluke.
Or, as Dallas coach Mike Richards said, this is just the way it goes sometimes as coaches try to face the reality of a down season.
“I don’t think it’s an indication of our district by any means. This is not something new. This has been the case in our district for years. We’re not a wrestling district,” he said. “These southern districts and out west that’s what they do out there, they wrestle. Their football programs are good too, but they’re wrestling areas. It’s a down year. Last year, we had one of our best years down here. This year was just a down year for us.”
There’s plenty of positives going forward for the district with underclassmen starting with Hoffman, who advanced to the state final as a junior. Another indication of a youth movement is that 113 of the 168 to grab medals at districts last month are underclassmen, which includes 50 in Class 3A and 63 in 2A.
“We got some good, young kids coming up in junior high and high school. We may never be that district that’s going to compete with District 11 or District 3 or District 7, but for me, I think we just have to keep plugging away and trying to produce elite individual wrestlers,” Richards said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever have the mass quantity of wrestlers they have here, but we can produce that core group of 10, 12, 15 kids that can come down here every year and get some experience as youngsters. I think that’s where our district’s always been and to be honest it might always be that way.”
Not all is lost
While Tunkhannock’s Mike Manley left Giant Center on Friday without becoming a state medalist for the school in its first appearance in 23 years, Hegedty’s team had one of the most successful runs for district programs this season.
The Tigers claimed the district’s Class 3A duals title and became just the second team in Wyoming Valley Conference history to win a match at the state duals event. They also had five wrestlers finish their careers with over 100 wins, a record for District 2 teams.
The coach said Manley advancing to states was a fitting cap to the season.
“We would have loved to get more guys down here and we thought we could have but we had a really, really good season,” Hegedty said. “The kids worked hard all year long. They did what we were asking, believed in what we were doing and I’m proud of all of them the way they wrestled all year long.”
Help on the way
Even though Dallas senior Cole Dixon was held without a medal in his only state appearance, a young Dallas team showed last weekend at the Northeast Regional Tournament that its going to be a force in Division 1 of the WVC and the district for years to come.
A pair of Mountaineers freshmen Alec Sampson (132 pounds) and Steven Newell (152) combined for three wins at the regional, while junior Xavier Barber went 2-2 in the 160-pound bracket of that event. Sophomore 113-pounder Kade Kravits pulled off a shocker at the District 2 Class 3A Tournament to advance to the finals before being eliminated in a tough weight at regionals the following weekend.
“We have some good underclassmen coming back and I’m very excited about next year and our prospects moving forward, the postseason especially,” Richards said. “Teamwise, we’re gonna be in the hunt, but individually we got Newell, Barber, Sampson, Kravits coming back. We got a good nucleus of guys coming back.”
Like he never left
Former Berwick coach Ernie Yates, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014 after coaching the Bulldogs to 325 victories in a 25-year career, was back at the state tournament this weekend.
Yates is now helping coach at Southern Columbia, which crowned three medalists in the Class 2A event, including Jaret Lane, who finished as runner-up in the 106-pound bracket.
Yates’ final trip to states as member of Berwick was in 2008 when he led Nick Venditti to runner-up and Aaron Karns to sixth-place showings. His last year as coach of the Bulldogs was in 2013.
Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant