SEASON PREVIEW: SLIPPERY ROCK
Their time has come. This season, the Slippery Rock High School wrestling program begins its first full year of competition at the varsity level.
"You have to accept the demands of a schedule sometime," Slippery Rock head coach Fred Powell said. "The 'big leagues' is Mercer County wrestling. It's some of the best wrestling in the state. We're very excited about the challenges ahead."
The program has developed fairly quickly over the past three years. This season, 16 athletes are on the varsity roster. More importantly, the middle school squad, entering its second season, has 23 wrestlers.
"The program's growing," Powell said. "It's really improving. It is a community effort."
Although the program is still in its developmental stages, several grapplers do have experience. Junior Liam Powell, the coach's son, captured the section championship last season. The younger Powell will wrestle at 145 and is a team co-captain this year.
Also back is senior co-captain Bob Becker. Becker will likely wrestle at 152 or 160. Becker posted a 12-3 record last season and was a district qualifier two years ago. Becker's dad, Bob, will join the program as assistant coach after serving as head coach at Laurel the last few years.
Powell feels that freshman Lance Becker is the probable starter at 103, while Jeremy Kline and Josh Mellor are jockeying for two of the spots in the lighter weights.
"We have a couple of guys who've been in the program for three years," Powell said. "We have a couple of new faces. Some of these guys have only been wrestling seven days."
Two standouts from the SRHS football team have also joined the wrestling program this winter.
Junior Braden Campbell, a two-way starter on the gridiron, was expected to battle with classmate Brian Belsterling for the heavyweight starting post. However, Campbell is nursing a football injury. Ironically, Belsterling was injured last season and could not wrestle. They will try to fill the hole left by the graduation of heavyweight Nathan Sommers, a district qualifer two years ago.
Also new to the team is senior Ed Milligan. Milligan started at linebacker this fall. He and fellow senior newcomer Elea Kalevitch are expected to start, in some combination, at 171 and 189 pounds.
"Once they gain experience, they will definitely benefit from the experience," Powell said. "I'm really hopeful they will develop. They're outstanding athletes."
Powell's goals for the season did not concern wins and losses, but rather the continual growth of the sport at Slippery Rock.
"Our objective this year is to have a full squad and be competitive as a team," Powell said. "To do that, we all have to work together and learn wrestling. I expect us to be competitive. I'm aware of the strength of our schedule -- teams with such rich tradition.
"The purpose of wrestling is to develop them as young men," Powell continued. "It teaches them to be competitive, to follow rules. There's a lot of discipline in wrestling. We look forward to the challenge and we're going to wrestle one match at a time." --By Herald writer Ryan Briggs
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