SEASON PREVIEW: REYNOLDS
Coach Brian Hills is enthused about the upcoming season because of the wealth of talent on his squad and the fact the school is nearing the 500-win plateau. Starting the season, Reynolds has a phenomenal mark of 495-63-2, which is believed to be one of the highest winning percentages of any mat team in state history.
"That was something for the past few years we knew was on the horizon," said Hills. "We're real proud of the fact we feel we're the fastest ones to reach 500 in the state of Pennsylvania. When you look at the programs, teams that hit 500 have a lot more losses than us. We're looking forward to cracking the barrier."
The program began in 1960-61 in a small way with eight matches. Under the guidance of Richard Sherwood the team went 4-4. The next year, legendary Neal Lineman took over as head coach and march to glory was under way. Lineman, a Mercer County and Pennsylvania Hall of Famer, posted a fantastic record of 201-10 through his final season in 1977.
Following Lineman at the coaching reigns were: Mark Reichard (35-6-1), 1977-80; Doug Groover (15-0-0), 1980-81; Ron Taylor (10-2-0), 1981-82; Ed McClimans (47-14-0), 1982-86; and Hills (183-27-0), 1986-present.
"It special to the coaches that we're carrying the tradition on," said Hills, who was a state runner-up under Lineman and heads a group of coaches, most former Reynolds wrestlers. "It's nice to be on the staff when that happens. We'll have all the coaches back for the night we hit 500 and have a little celebration."
But there's a lot more "on the horizon" this season for the Raiders. Not the least of which is Nestor's bid for his third state crown.
"Justin is really focused on what he wants to accomplish," said Hills. "A lot of times we take Justin for granted, we compare him with (3-time state champ) Casey (Taylor) and he's like having another assistant coach on the staff. He has his goals set. He's real satisfied to have signed with Pitt early, it takes off a lot of pressure."
Nestor is also looking to break the Mercer County career victory record held by former Grove City two-time state champ Tom Tomeo, who went 143-8. Nestor comes in with a record of 112-11, putting him clearly on target to surpass the mark if he can stay healthy. He was 39-1 last year.
Because of Nestor's success, other Raiders may be overlooked, but teammate Jerry Kendall takes a backseat to no one. A two-time state place-winner, the senior hopes to stand atop the medal stand this year in Hershey. He brings a 76-15 overall record into the season.
Hills also welcomed back a solid group of wrestlers, having lost only three key seniors -- Matt Jordan, Chad Geiger and Mike Jones -- to graduation.
"Overall we have a real nice group of kids this year," said Hills. "We have 29 kids and that's using only three ninth graders. We have some physically tough, challenging matches on our schedule. Besides the Mercer County league matches, we're wrestling in the Ultimate Duals again. We'll be wrestling Brockway, which isn't supposed to be too tough this year, but (then) we'll meet Wilson, which is ranked 24th in the nation in preseason. They have 12 of 13 starters back from last year's team. It's a real good challenge and the kind of match that gets your kids ready for the tournaments at the end of the year.
"We tell our kids that it's OK to lose, but we don't want you to learn to like to lose."
The Raiders are also hoping to again wrestle in the state dual-meet tournament at the end of the season.
"We hope to have an opportunity to wrestle (Fort) LeBoeuf again," said Hills, whose squad lost to LeBoeuf in the District 10 championship meet. "The have a real good team back again, including some kids who were hurt and didn't wrestle. We feel like our team is a lot more solid than last year, rounded all the way through. We're young at the upper weights, but we have some talent there. And the kids will get better as the season goes along."
Reynolds, which opened the campaign by winning the rugged Mountaineer Tournament last weekend, will be counting on talented freshman Jake Habel to get the team started at 103, with Kendall competing at 112 most of the season. Kendall is backed by sophomores Channing Burnett and Brent Tompkins, along with junior letterman Chris White. Competing for the 119 post are junior Mike Emmett, returning section champ, and freshman Travis Battles, a former Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state champion.
Senior Josh Cilas, who went 28-10 last year and was a section runner-up, will be at 125, backed by Corey McKnight, with rough-and-tumble Justin Hollobaugh, a junior and two-time state qualifier, at 130. Hollobaugh, 34-8 last season and carrying a career mark of 63-16, is backed up by sophomore Nick Hunt.
The 135 slot will probably be filled by sophomore Owen Brickell, who transferred from Greenville, or juniors Tyler Middleton and Mark Svirbly.
Senior Rocky Habel, who missed most of last season after surgery for a knee injury, returns with a vengeance and hopes to return to the state tournament, a level he reached as a freshman. Habel has a 63-21 career mark. He's backed by Richard Corteau, a sophomore.
Senior Dylan Middleton will probably be starting at 145, with competition from sophomore letterman Joel Davis and juniors Mike Goodemote, Ryan Kimmy and Jared Reichard. The 152 spot is very competitive with senior letterman David May and junior letterman John Svirbly, a pair of district qualifiers, contending.
Nestor will start the year at 160, but could wrestle anywhere from 152 to 171, said Hills.
Senior letterman Nate Kimmy, who really came on at the end of last season and finished fourth at regionals, will hold down the 171 spot, backed by junior Nate Lucas. Freshman Nick Sommerfeld will be the probable starter at 189, pushed by junior Steve Weary, with sophomore letterman Mike Hills, son of the coach, at heavyweight.
Assisting Hills at the varsity level are a group of former Reynolds wrestlers: John Tofani, Casey Taylor, Ron Beckman and Brian Nestor. At the junior high are Bill Foore and Bob Habel. Elementary coaches include Rick Stoyer, Keith Dawes, Matt Nestor, Paul Kulka, Scott Nottingham, Rob Reagle, Frank D'Urso and Russ Conley.
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