SEASON PREVIEW: SHARPSVILLE
Sharpsville High coach Ron Haywood is accustomed to the situation but it doesn't make it any easier. Almost half of his team -- 7 out of 16 -- didn't report until this week because they were playing football.
"We're a small school and a lot of kids play more than one sport," said Haywood, whose son Ron, a junior, is one of those who helped the Blue Devils to a District 10 title and a trip all the way to the Western Regional final. "But we had some kids that were able to work out and it was good for them because they could get a little more attention.
"I hope the other kids can get back and start catching up right away. The main thing is conditioning, they need to get in wrestling shape. We canceled our match Wednesday (against Jamestown) and we'll make it up Jan. 6. It's a Saturday so we'll wrestle Laurel (at 1 p.m.), then Jamestown at 4. We'll open Saturday at the Rocky Grove tournament."
The Blue Devils lost some strong grapplers to graduation, led by District 10 champion Jim Funk, a state qualifier; Jim McCrillis, a regional qualifier; Cary Kulka, a former regional qualifier; and Jeremy Asafaylo and Brad Miller, a pair of district qualifiers.
The young Haywood is the key returnee this season, winning the District 10 title at 135 last year as a sophomore and earning a berth at states.
"He's got his goal set to get back to states this year and to get onto the medal stand," said his dad. "Just getting there as a sophomore, and in the middle weights where it's mostly upperclassmen, was important. He's the only one on the team coming back with a winning record (33-7) from last year. I hope the others improve, they always show sparks here or there."
Dustin Ohl, junior letterman, will return at 103 for the Blue Devils, with freshmen Jimmy Totin and Kyle Parrish battling for the 112 spot. Larry Herrmann, sophomore letterman, will be at 119, followed at 125 by junior letterman Ryan Thompson.
One of the key performers this year for the Devils is Terry Balensky, junior letterman.
"Hopefully Balensky can come through this year," said Haywood. "He's improved and he did some summer wrestling."
Matt Magnelli, junior letterman, will be at 135, followed by sophomore letter winner Tom Findley at 140 and sophomore George Abbott at 145. Haywood, with a career record of 55-18, will be at 152 to open the season, with either junior letterman Mike Kulka or junior Dave Wallace at 160.
Chad Bucciarelli and Matt Holsopple, a pair of junior lettermen, will be at 171 and 189 respectively. Heavyweight will be either Shelby Ripple, senior letterman, or Jeff Myers, junior letterman.
"Hopefully we can mold them into a team," said Coach Haywood. "If not this year, next year."
Haywood is assisted at the varsity level by John Taylor and Chris Enos, with Bill Thompson, Dave Schreckengost, Rick Jones and Steve Sherman at the junior high. Elementary coaches include Shawn Buchanan, Dick Weber, Gary Rowe and Dick Phillips.
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