TOM ELLING’S WRESTLING MAT-TERS: Excitement of Wrestling

How could the Penn State heart-stopping win over Ohio State not lead off this week’s column?

So many things could have gone wrong: Mark Hall not converting that clinching duck-under, Bo Nickal not tilting No. 2-ranked Myles Martin in the fading seconds for the major, Anthony Cassar not believing that he could upset the No. 1-ranked 197-pounder, Nick Nevills not backing off and allowing the greatest Hwt to use his takedown-and-release methodology.

Granted, some things did go wrong, especially the mild upset for OSU’s Joey McKenna over No. 6 Nick Lee. In the end, Penn State wrestling captured their 43rd consecutive dual meet win at Rec Hall, and in the process, attracted more fans to the sport. For you basketball fans, it equates to Christian Laettner’s last second shot in 1992 to give his team the national championship over Kentucky.

This Saturday, Tom Brands and his Iowa Hawkeyes (11-2) come to the BJC. Ironically, since PA native and Franklin Regional grad Spencer Lee has had his red shirt removed, he has won impressively, but the Hawkeyes have suffered their two Big 10 losses (Michigan 19-17 and Ohio State 22-12). Penn State hopes to add a three to their loss column. It won’t be easy. My early take is 22-17 State.

Cornell at LHU was also a nail biter with the Red winning 20-18. LHU lost three bouts by two points or less. Thomas Haines showed little wear as he was back in the lineup the second consecutive day, defeating No. 22 Jeramy Sweany, 9-3. Just two seniors in the Bald Eagle lineup portend a bright 18-19 season. Ronnie Perry from Solanco has been a dependable performer for Coach Scott Moore all throughout his career, and Tristan Sponseller (Bermudian Springs) has won his fair share at 197. Sponseller has injured his knee and it is doubtful he will see further action.

Coach Rob Koll is high on three of his freshmen: No. 1-ranked Yanni Diakomihalis (141); No. 12 Max Dean (184) and No3 Ben Darmstadt (197). I was especially impressed with Yanni D. and Darrmstadt. In fact, I’ll predict A-A status for both in Cleveland. Rob tells me his mother is 93 and living in the State College area. Damion Hahn (former two-time NCAA Champion for J Robinson’s Minnesota 2003 & 2004) is Koll’s first assistant. The New Jersey native is listed at the 3rd best high school wrestler in the nation over the past 20 years. PA’s Cary Kolat (LHU NCAA two-time champion) was listed first. Kolat captured his titles in1997 and 1998 and is currently coaching at Campbell University in North Carolina.

Lock Haven University tie-ins?

In hotbed District 11 (Lehigh Valley), four of the top coaches are Jeff Karam (Bethlehem Catholic), Dave Crowell (Nazareth), Jody Karam (Bethehem Freedom) and Jamarr Billman (Easton). The first two will be in Hershey this weekend. The two teams met in the finals last year with Nazareth coming out on top with a tie-breaker edge. (I think the Wildcats recently learned a thing about such at the D6 Duals.) Beca has had the better this year in two previous match-ups. But as was also recently-learned, three times is not always easy.

Lock Haven State/University has had their share of great high school coaches: Gus DeAugustino, Steve DeAugustino, Bud Stehman, Dick Rhoades, Doug Buckwalter, Mike Maney, Brad Silimperi (and Trapp McCormack, too), Marc Billett, Les Turner, Jerry Swope — to name a few.

OVERTIME:

Word is that the Centre Daily Times will no longer be covering high school sports. That is a shame. Their most recent sports guy Nate Cobler has done an excellent job, and before him Guy Cipriano, Ron Bracken and Doug McDonald were unconsciously good. Have also heard that the paper itself is in jeopardy.

Heading to the PIAA Team Championships at the Giant Center on Hershey, this Thursday-Saturday. Based on year-long performances, I’d have to go with Bethlehem Catholic in AAA and Reynolds in AA. Southern Columbia has also met every challenge. They should have a strong weekend.

LHU travels to Clarion this weekend. The same Clarion that just beat Rider. Congratulations to Clarion Coach Keith Ferraro. Remember, Clarion was second to LHU in the PSACs. Tighten those chinstraps. You can listen the Sunday, 2:00 PM meet by going to the Lock Haven wrestling schedule https://www.golhu.com/schedule.aspx?schedule=135. Former Slippery Rock wrestler John Stroup will have the call. John wrestled for LHSC NCAA Champion Fred Powell at the Rock.

Sympathies for Jersey Shore coach Crock Herman and family as Crock’s father passed away recently.

Altoona’s Parker McClellan will be moving up to 220 for the post-season. The returning regional champion departs a weight class that has the likes of State College’s Cole Urbas and Clearfield’s Luke McGonigal. McGonigal is a LHU recruit. While pundits argue that the overall team strength in Central Pennsylvania Class AAA is not relatively high, most agree that individually, the area can be very competitive.

If you have a smart phone or computer, you can follow the PIAA Team Championship results on my website: http://www.pawrsl.com/pa/tebullnew.htm. There is no broadcast, but full summaries of every meet will be provided. Rich “Skinz” Vetock and Gimp Brownell will be madly typing those results.

Looking ahead, the district tournaments will take place the weekend of Feb 23-24. District 6 AAA will unfold in one day — the 24th.

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