Tom Elling’s WRESTLING ‘MAT-TERS’: The second (and third) season

As most of you voracious wrestling fans know, today the PIAA State Team Championships are taking place at the Giant Center in Hershey.

As with anything, there are pros and cons with the “team” concept, as opposed to the traditional (since 1938) individual concept.

I personally like the team championship event largely because it gives everyone on 32 teams a chance to feel what it is like to be on that “giant” stage.

It is even better when you can take home medals.

Just ask the 1999 Bald Eagle Area Champions.

Central Mountain opens with the always-tough Bethlehem Catholic team, coached by former LHSC grappler Jeff Karam.

The Golden Hawks recently outdistanced rival Nazareth by 20 points in a regular season dual meet, but the Blue Eagles of (also former LHSC wrestler) Dave Crowell got payback with a win in the District Duals.

If the Cats win, they would most likely face WPIAL’s Kiski Area; a loss would most likely find then taking on District 3’s Central Dauphin.

The Wildcats won the District 6 AAA title last Saturday at Tyrone with solid wins over BEA and Bellefonte – both very good teams.

Oh, by the way, BEA is coached by LHU grad Ron Guenot and Bellefonte by LHU All-American Mike Maney.

Any further questions?

As usual, in a dual meet, there are many heroes, but how about Austin Carson stepping in his first dual meet (after a football injury) and winning his first!

Some key falls by Caleb Turner and Mahlik Houtz were also keys to the win. The fate of the coin toss in determining the starting weight class had Seth Andrus leading off and two-time all-stater Geo Barzona hitting clean-up.?Barzona, according to Wildcat wrestling historian Joe Walker, became the 13th 100-match winner for Central Mountain. He moved into a tie for 7th in number of wins with Gavin Caprio (112-36). Geo is now 112-31-0. Tyler McCall is the next former Wildcat in the Barzona march. McCall had a record of 113-39. Who can forget his win over former Penn Stater and MMA star Phil Davis in the 2003 season. McCall finished 3rd that year defeating the wrestler who had topped him in an earlier round.

I think the Central Mountain and Bellefonte administrations used good judgment in deciding to NOT make-up the dual meet, and count the results of the D6 tournament towards the Big 7. CM would have had three dual meets in a week added to whatever they might accrue this weekend. I’m sure both Coach Maney and Walizer would like to have fresh horses for the Individual Tournament.

Lloyd Rhoades of BEA may be in his last year as a PJW executive board member. The energetic and super-organized Rhoades has served the state well in his capacity for many years. Taking a look back at last year’s local placers, you can find such emerging stars as Gage McClenahan and David Close of BEA; Johnny Shreffler of CM; Keegan Rothrock of Bellefonte and the Tomb brothers of Jersey Shore.

LHU’s Adam Mackie continues to be among the Division I national Fall leaders.The Eagle 174-pounder now has 12 falls on the season which puts him is sole 3rd place rising above PSU’s Zain Retherford and Bo Nickal.  Thomas Haines was ranked 10th in the most recent Intermat rankings. DJ Fehlman continues to impress now that he has claimed the 133 spot. Scott Moore’s LHU team finished a rugged dual meet schedule at 8-8.

Sticking with college news, Iran has lifted their ban on USA wrestlers participating in the Freestyle World Cup competition scheduled for February 16-17 in Kermanshah. That is good news for the hard-working athletes that comprise our team and brough back memories of the Jimmy Carter ban for the Olympics in 1980.

In the February 15th issue of Amateur Wrestling News, Denny Diehl penned an article on unseeded NCAA Champions. I’d recommend the article as it does include many Pennsylvanians including out own Paul Powell and Bill Blacksmith. Powell, who had more moves than a hula dancer holding a can of worms, surprised the experts in 1958 when he claimed the title; Blacksmith (a teammate of mine and All-American Jerry Swope) was unseeded in 1966 and defeated the #1, 4 and 3 seeds to win his championship. Other Pennsylvanians who did the same include: Tony Gizoni, Joe Solomon, Garry Barton, Jim Bennett, and Matt Reiss.

Some of you may remember the headlock king Steve ‘Willie’ Williams who passed away Friday, October 14th. Steve was a Clearfield High product who brough energy and enthusiasm to Neil Turner’s LHU team. The Clearfield grad (1978) was a NW AAA Regional Champion and a member of the TKE frat. His good friend Abe Stauffer had many fond memories to relate about ‘Willie.’ May he rest in eternal peace.

What You Don’t learn in the stands: Sitting in front of Dave and Judith Petruzzi was a plus at the Clarion meet. Dave informed me that Jake Field’s (125-pounder from Illinois) parents were classmates of Dave at LHU in the mid 80s.

Ran into Dan Hills at the local donut shop. I knew that Dan had coached varsity wrestling at Biglerville over 50 years ago, but I was unaware that that school honored the ow at the annual Biglerville Duals with the ‘Dan Hills Achievement award.’ Laike Gardner, talented lightweight at Lehigh, was a recent winner. Dan Hills rocks.

And a tie-in with black history month regarding the late Bill Holland. A young wrestler from Johnstown wanted to wrestle, but at the time Johnstown High had dropped wrestling. Step in Bill Holland who lobbied for a special exemption to allow the young man to wrestling in the Districts as long as he had conducted certified workouts with a nearby team. Thankfully, Westmont -Hilltop and Bob Fleck were gracious enough to accommodate. The wrestler went 11-0 on his way to an improbable PIAA Championship at Hwt. You may have heard of him- Carlton Haselrig- a 6 time NCAA Champion and an All-Pro guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And in my best Paul Harvey look– that is the rest of the story.