SEASON PREVIEW: HICKORY H.S., Hermitage, Pa.
There's a youth movement under way in the Hermitage School District wrestling program.
"We're very young with a lot of freshmen and sophomores," said Carl Wombacker, who began his 19th year at the helm of the Hornets with a loss last weekend at Jamestown. "We have good numbers with 36 on the team; we're moving in the right direction.
"We're pretty solid -- not where Reynolds is -- but we'll be competitive with everybody. We had 18 freshmen come out for the team and most of them wrestled in younger programs. Most of these guys have wrestled since second or third grade. We only have one or two seniors who'll be starting, so normally with this many young wrestlers it would be like a junior varsity team. But these kids have been around.
"This is a good group of kids, a fun group to coach. We've been successful as a dual-meet team in recent years because we have numbers, but we haven't had this many quality kids since 1992.
"I still enjoy it ... Last year was one of my most enjoyable years in coaching. We had seniors Gary Osborne and Paul Steele, who were really good leaders. This year, Zack Fejes has stepped up to lead, and (Edmund) Flocco and (Aaron) Clepper are also taking leadership roles."
The Hornets will open at 103 with district qualifier Jeff Hoffman, a junior, who's facing competition from freshman Jeremy Battyanyi. At 112 is two-year letterman Matt Battyanyi, a junior.
Freshman Anthony DeGerolamo and junior letterman Ben Hatlen are competing for the 119 slot, with sophomore Stephen Kettler, who lettered last year at Brookfield, and freshman Tyler Allen battling at 125.
Fejes, a Section 2 champion and state qualifier last season, will be at 130, backed by freshman Nick Clepper. A pair of lettermen, senior Flocco and sophomore David Szabo, are shooting for the starting role at 135, with regional qualifier Carmen Russo, a sophomore, at 140. Russo will be pushed by freshman Scott Byerly.
At 145, junior letterman Jesse Shaffer will be battling with freshmen Mike Maskrey and Mark DeArment for the starting post. At 152, two-year letterman Clepper faces a stiff challenge from sophomore D.J. Keller, a transfer from Sharon, for the varsity spot. Freshman Levio Baldarelli will be the starter at 160, pushed by sophomore Aaron Gill. A pair of sophomores, Micah Bender and Tim Hummell, have their sights set on the 171 spot, with either junior letterman Chris Ferringer or freshman Devin Williams at 189.
Trying for the 275 spot are sophomore letterman Ryan DeArment, a district qualifier; junior letterman Bob Byerly and freshman Taylor. Byerly will eventually drop to 189 and will probably wrestle at 215 during tournaments and matches in New York and Ohio.
Wombacker is very high on his young team and is even looking beyond this season.
"We're looking next year to beefing up our schedule and getting into a couple of tougher tournaments," he said. "You have to gear your program to the kind of talent you have."
Helping Wombacker at the varsity coaching level are Drew Perman, a former state runner-up for the Hornets, and veteran assistant Frank Styduhar. Junior high coaches are Tom Miles, Tim Jones and Ray Olsen. Dave Morris heads the elementary program with help from many others.
Due to construction at the high school, the Hornets probably won't be able to wrestle any home matches until January. It has also created a practice problem, but Wombacker said it is worth the wait. The wrestling team will have state-of-the-art facilities when the construction is finished, including a huge weight room connected to the practice gym.
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