Many Wyoming Valley Conference programs are rich in history when it comes to wrestling.
Two of those teams that have traditionally produced standout wrestlers in the past, combining for more than two dozen state medals, experienced rebuilding seasons that were also hampered with injuries.
Berwick and Pittston Area, which have combined for five District 2 team championships and five D2 duals titles this century, hit what appears to be the lowest point in quite some time over the weekend when neither team qualified a wrestler for this weekend’s Northeast Regional Tournament for the first time in no less than 25 years. The two finished at the bottom of the team standings.
“It was definitely a rebuilding year. We didn’t have a lot of upperclassmen so we have basically the whole lineup, even the kids who were injured coming back next year,” Bulldogs coach Paul Ervin said. “We’re looking forward to the future. This year was a rough go but the kids that were here work hard and will be back.”
Both teams did however have bright spots. The Patriots, who missed district duals for just the second time in school history earlier this month, picked up three medals with two coming from underclassmen as Jason DeBoard (160) took fifth and Nate Lombardo was sixth at 195. Senior Chris Starinsky advanced to the 138-pound semifinals by knocking out the No. 1 seed in the bracket’s first round; he finished sixth as well.
The Bulldogs entered just five wrestlers into the tournament, but grabbed three medals, all by underclassmen with Travis Dent placing fifth at 113, Alec Talanca taking sixth at 126 and Stone Force grabbing the fifth-place medal in the 220-pound bracket.
“Wish we could have won two or three more matches and get a couple guys down to regionals but the good thing is that the five guys we brought will all be back next year,” Ervin said.
The future could get even brighter for both squads in the near future. The Patriots always seem to have a strong program led by coach James Woodall, the school’s only state champion winning in 1999, and the team’s strength was shown as they almost knocked off Coughlin during the season, and gave Dallas a scare during a dual last month.
For Berwick, the team will be moving down to Class 2A next season, a classification that’s normally a tad bit easier to compete. The last time the Bulldogs were in Class 2A, they won back-to-back duals and team championships in 2007 and 2008. While that could be a few years away, they will be losing just a couple seniors as they hope the drop in classification will help the process a little more.
“It’ll be a different atmosphere, a different competition so we’ll see how things go,” Ervin said.
A Hawkeye trifecta
Hanover Area picked up three gold medalists in the Class 2A Tournament for the first time in 16 years on Saturday. In fact, it’s the most winners the school has dressed in more than 40 years.
The three champs equaled a mark hit five times previously in 2000, 1997, 1994, 1982 an 1976. The school record for most district champs in one season came in 1975 when it had seven gold winners.
Dallas didn’t really enter the Class 3A district tournament as an unknown. Despite just a few seniors, the Mountaineers have been on every team’s radar this season because of its talented underclassmen.
That proved to be true over the weekend with eight wrestlers from the team picking up medals, five of them advancing to regionals and five of the medalists being underclassmen.
Sophomore Kade Kravits was the Mountaineers’ highest placer of the underclassmen, taking second at 113 and upsetting No. 2 seed Josh Beeman from Tunkhannock in the semifinals.
“Our team did amazing. We got eight medalists. We just had a great day,” said senior Cole Dixon, who won the gold medal at 182 pounds. “Kade, he works and cuts weight and does a good job at it. He’s gonna be a good wrestler.”
A tale of two leagues
The Wyoming Valley Conference had an upperhand on the Lackawanna League during the team portion of the season winning the 2A and 3A district duals competition.
This past weekend, the Lackawanna League regained control, at least in Class 3A. The conference from the north qualified 30 participants for regionals to the WVC’s 26 in Class 3A and crowned nine champions to just five from the WVC. The nine champions from the LL were the most the conference has ever had in the classification meaning the five champs from the WVC were the fewest the league has ever produced in the 40 years since 3A became a classification in 1976.
Over in 2A, it was a completely different story as the WVC dominated with 11 district champs and has been dominating districts over the last four years winning 41 golds out of a possible 56 in that time. The high point of that era was crowning 12 champions in 2014.
The Northeast Regional pairings were released on Sunday with no WVC wrestlers grabbing a top seed for the Class 2A regional at Williamsport High School. The only wrestlers from the district to be seeded first in 2A is Valley View’s Brett Uhrin at 132 and Scranton Prep’s Thor Balavage at 220. The rest of the 12 District 2 champions in 2A were seeded second.
For the Class 3A regional at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, the WVC grabbed no top seeds for its five champs. Only two of them — Hazleton Area’s Chris Lasecki (126) and Dallas’ Cole Dixon (182) — were awarded with No. 2 seeds. The only No. 1 seeds from District 2 in 3A are Wallenpaupack’s Kyle Hartman (220) and Abington Heights’ Nick Carr at 160.
Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant