|Wrestling In Western Pennsylvania- By Paul Schofield, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, February 19, 2009 |
Grappling with success
Buzz up!By Paul Schofield, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, February 19, 2009
What: Class AA individual wrestling championships
When: 5 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m., Saturday. Finals begin at 6 p.m.
Where: Chartiers Valley High School
At stake: The top six wrestlers in each weight class advance to the PIAA Southwest Regional on Feb. 27-28 at the Cambria County War Memorial, Johnstown.
What: Class AAA sectionals
When: 10:30 a.m., Saturday. Finals begin at 6 p.m.
Where: Section 1 at Indiana; Section 2 at Hempfield; Section 3 at Fox Chapel; Section 4 at Waynesburg and Section 5 at Mt. Lebanon.
At stake: The top four in each weight class advance to WPIAL/PIAA Southwest Regional Feb. 26-28 at Canon-McMillan.
Where the wrestlers are
High school seniors who have signed letters of intent for the 2009-2010 season:
Wrestler, High School -- College
Jake Kemerer, Hempfield -- Oklahoma
Shane Young, Penn-Trafford -- West Virginia
Anthony Zanetta, Keystone Oaks -- Pitt
Dane Johnson, Shady Side Academy -- Pitt
Joe Waltko, North Allegheny -- Clarion
James Fleming, West Mifflin -- Clarion
Zack Benzio, Connellsville -- N. Illinois
John Prezzia, South Side Beaver -- Wisconsin
About the writer
Paul Schofield can be reached via e-mail or at 724-853-2109.
College wrestling coaches from some of the top programs in the nation have found a prime proving ground for recruits in Western Pennsylvania.
Currently, there are more than 75 wrestlers with WPIAL roots on Division I college rosters and many more wrestling at the small college level. Pitt and West Virginia each have nine.
Pitt wrestling coach Rande Stottlemyer said he's not surprised there are that many wrestlers from the WPIAL on Division I teams.
"Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and New York have always been prime recruiting areas," said Stottlemyer, who has coached the Panthers for the past 30 years. "The WPIAL certainly can hold its own against in area in the country, but great wrestlers are coming from everywhere. The rest of the country is starting to catch up, but this state is still a hotbed."
Stottlemyer, a 1978 graduate of Pitt who wrestled at Hickory High School, believes it is important to keep the local talent close. He was also surprised that the WPIAL didn't produce any Division I champions between 1965 and 1990.
"People don't realize how difficult Division I is and how hard it is to stand on that podium at Nationals," Stottlemyer said. "Everyone at this level is good. If you do it 365, you're going to get rewarded."
Since 2000, WPIAL wrestlers have won nine NCAA titles, including three at West Virginia by Greg Jones, a Greensburg Salem graduate. In the same time span, 20 WPIAL wrestlers earned All-America honors. Jones also is one of 22 area wrestlers to claim an NCAA title since 1948.
This year, eight athletes have signed letters-of-intent to wrestle at Oklahoma, Pitt, West Virginia, Northern Illinois, Clarion and Wisconsin. Another 10 to 12 still are in the decision-making process, entering one of the biggest wrestling weekends of the WPIAL season. The Class AA championships are at Chartiers Valley on Friday and Saturday; and AAA sectionals are Saturday at six sites.
Stottlemyer said having 15 wrestlers sign Division I offers would be a good season; closer to 20 would be a great year.
"This is a deeply ingrained area," said Jones, now an assistant at West Virginia. "Wrestlers start at a young age, and they receive some of the best coaching in the country. There are a lot of coaches in the WPIAL who wrestled in college and know how to prepare a wrestler for the next level.
"My best coach was my dad (Vertus Jones). He taught my brothers (Vertus and Donnie, both PIAA champions) and I about a great work ethic. You see a lot of wrestling families and a lot of support from communities in the WPIAL."
The next signing period begins April 8. Dave Cawley of North Allegheny, Ryan Watson of Burgettstown, Sam Brownlee of Canon-McMillan and Jack Bachman of Hempfield are among those who are being heavily recruited. Plus, Latrobe wrestlers Nathan Pennesi (West Virginia) and Joey Walters (Army) have made verbal commitments.
Among those who have signed is Keystone Oaks' Anthony Zanetta, who said he selected Pitt after careful consideration with his parents.
"Pitt just seemed to be the perfect fit for me," he said. "Not to go there would be wrong. This is one of the top wrestling states, especially (the region of) Western Pennsylvania, and it's been that way for a long time. It has a great reputation, starting with the youth programs. It also has some of the best wrestling clubs in the country."
Kiski Area coach Chuck Tursky has no trouble explaining how this region has become a fertile hotbed for wrestlers.
"Look at the college rankings," he said. "There are a number of wrestlers from Districts 7 (WPIAL) and 11 (Allentown/Easton area) ranked nationally. College coaches like WPIAL wrestlers because they are well-tested and wrestle at a high level."
Penn-Trafford coach Larry Hohman said several top wrestlers come through great feeder programs, where proper techniques are taught.
"We have dedicated people and former wrestlers on the junior high and Junior Olympic level," Hohman said. "Many are former college wrestlers. We also have tough kids. College coaches love the toughness of the wrestlers in the state."
Steve Potter of Greensburg, a senior national scout for the National Collegiate Scouting Association, said the 89 Division I wrestling programs are permitted by the NCAA to offer only 9.9 scholarships per year. Many Division I programs offer fewer than that, but still they come to WPIAL schools looking for wrestlers.
"I don't know if wrestling is second to football, but there are more Division I wrestlers than basketball players in the WPIAL," said Potter, a former college basketball player at St. Vincent.
"Major college programs won't even consider a wrestler if he hasn't been a state champion, a state place-finisher numerous times or a Junior Cadet national champion. That's what they find here."
Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine, a two-time state champion at Hempfield who earned a scholarship to Buffalo, said wrestling is an opportunistic sport.
"Wrestlers have the opportunity to get better because of the great coaching they get," DeAugustine said. "Most high school coaches wrestled at a high level in college, and they conduct their practices that way."
DeAugustine said it is the wrestler's responsibility to take advantage of his opportunities.
"There are also numerous wrestling clubs that have great coaches," DeAugustine said. "The wrestlers in the area, and the ones who become all-Americans, do what they can to improve. We're flooded with some good clubs.
"If you tell a college coach you have a WPIAL champion, he knows that wrestler could be state champion in other states."
North Allegheny coach Jamie Kyriazis was on a team at North Allegheny that sent nine wrestlers to Division I programs. He chose Syracuse.
"A lot of former Division I wrestlers from the area come back and give back to their communities," Kyriazis said. "Wrestling remains strong at schools like Connellsville, Kiski Area, Burrell and Canon-McMillan because they have great traditions. Success breeds success. The smaller communities are tight-knit and always seem to produce great wrestlers."
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Photo Coach Bodnar Wrestling In High School , Chartiers-Houston SW Pennsylvania. I grew up with this tradition and have tried to bring it with me to the State of Washington.
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Posted by: Robert Bodnar, Jan 23, 15:07