Wrestling is back and – in his first notebook - Glenn Kaiser highlights the SOL’s top returning wrestlers and also explains some important changes at the league and district levels.
WRESTLING IS BACK…
New Coaches, New District One Format and Rising Stars Highlight SOL
We are deep into the PIAA football playoffs for all divisions, North Penn and Upper Dublin are vying for district titles as wrestlers hit the mats on the first day of wrestling practice across the state. There is no doubt, the excitement for this coming season cannot be contained as the SOL will put some of the best grapplers in the state out on the mats in three weeks. The first scrimmages get underway Nov. 24 as teams begin to develop their lineups and wrestlers start to descend to their opening season weight class, which will ultimately indicate where they may end up in the post-season, the real season.
The SOL has a talented bunch of wrestlers who have developed into superstars, as some are still underclassmen, while others embark on their senior seasons with Hershey gold on their minds. The Council Rock School District, with both the CR North and CR South High School teams, contain several of these elite wrestlers. Council Rock North and Council Rock South both look like strong contenders for a D1-team title in 2019, as both teams return multiple high-level wrestlers.
Cam Robinson, an explosive point scorer from Council Rock North, returns as a junior to move up the podium at the Giant Center in Chocolate Town, USA, after a fifth place finish in 2018 at 138lbs. Cam’s neighbor from Council Rock South, Kyle Waterman, a slick lightweight, will also look to rise on the grand stage of PIAA ranks after finishing fifth a year ago. Waterman, most likely disappointed with his finish last season, will be hungry to build on his success and confidence earned a year ago.
CR South returns seven grapplers with state experience. Joining Waterman will be Cole Flanagan, Giani Gilch, Shane Hanson-Ashworth, Nik Korbich, Max Mendez and Eric Woloshyn. Waterman, Mendez and Hanson-Ashworth comprise a formidable lightweight trio that will make any team cringe when setting their lineups against the Golden Hawks.
The CR North Indians counter with Kyle Hauserman, Luke Lucerne and Dillon Sheehy teaming with Robinson, as this school district rivalry will take center stage in D1 all season long. With Hauserman and Waterman in the same weight potentially and Mendez or Hanson-Ashworth versus Lucerne, you have a few of the state’s best lightweights battling locally in the Suburban One League National Conference.
Other wrestlers to top key on include Souderton senior Tyler Williams, who will be competing with a young team this season, as the Indians were hit hard by graduation. He will be once again be contending for a medal after his sixth place finish at 132 in 2018. Williams is set to take his skills to Drexel after graduation. Patrick O’Neill (North Penn), a Bloomsburg commit, just gets better every year, and with big wins and plenty of confidence gained last season when he earned a seventh place finish at 160lbs, he will be a tough out in any tournament he competes in this season. Harry S Truman’s Gunner Fuss will be on a mission as a senior, as he, like Waterman has high expectations this season to improve on last year’s finish. He was eighth last March.
Keep an eye on William Tennent junior A.J. Tamburrino, who sat out the postseason last year with an illness. He ended his season at a perfect 19-0 with high expectations for a state medal; this year will be no different, as he has prepared himself well this offseason. A.J. went 3-2 at the Super 32 but did not place at 145lbs. He’ll be one of the best in D1 this season at whatever weight class he wrestles.
In the SOL American, only Plymouth-Whitmarsh has a wrestler with PIAA Championship experience in Paolo Santo (285). The Colonials were decimated by graduation as well and will have to go through an experienced Hatboro-Horsham team that seems to have the edge in the conference with the departure of Quakertown. Although the H-H Wrestling Warriors have no returning state qualifiers, Davis Wheeler, Logan Flynn, Patrick Chapman (both older brothers were), AJ Vegas and CJ Grier are just a few of 10 returning starters.
Wissahickon, a relatively young team will also look to battle for a team championship in the American, as they are led by a strong core, with lightweight Matt Fritz, Charlie Brammer, Kevin Salmon, Peter Sweeney, and big men Dan Keller and Brian Fennell.
In the SOL Continental, Pennridge, which has a new coach in JT Lewis, will be left with just one returning SQ in tactician Evan Wider. North Penn and legendary coach Rob Shettsline will look to defend its league title for the fourth straight season. But Quakertown returns to the Continental (from the American) with another top coach in D1, Kurt Handel, with two state studs in Domenic DeFalco and senior Josh Stahl. Patrick McCoy, a sophomore will be in the solid Panther lineup as well. If Souderton can get the numbers, they too can battle here with senior Bruno Stolfi, who joined Williams last year in Hershey.
Back to the SOL National, Pennsbury has a coaching change as Wayne Stinson takes the helm for the Falcons. If any team can upset CRS or CRN, it might be a Neshaminy team that surprised many last season. The ‘Skins are led by state men Jackson Erb (Millersville signee) and Zach Martin. Martin was on fire as a freshman last year. The ‘Skins downed CR North last season convincingly with a 40-20 league dual victory.
The SOL – along with District One - is set to implement big changes to their league championships and postseason formats respectively in 2018-19. All three SOL Conferences will now combine league dual wins and team league tournament scores to determine the champion in each conference. Points will be assigned to league dual wins and totaled with league team scores to crown a conference champion. Tom Vivacqua, CRN head coach, along with other coaches around the league have determined the value of such scoring to determine the league’s team champions. Over the years, if individual league tournament team scores had been used as criteria with dual victories, we would have been since different teams crowned league champs.
The biggest change comes at the District level where league tournaments will no longer be used for postseason qualifiers for advancement to the D1 Individual Championships. This season we will see all SOL wrestlers grappling at the District’s four “Super Districts”. With the top four wrestlers advancing to a 16-man Southeast Regional to be hosted by Souderton. Quakertown will host the East Section of the D1 AAA tournament, which will include 16 SOL teams.
The remaining SOL teams will be immersed in other Sections. The South Section, with 16 teams, will include SOL teams Cheltenham, P-W, Upper Dublin and Wissahickon. Souderton will move to the 14-team North Section. Springfield-Montco will again compete in the D1 AA event for their post-season, which does not undergo any changes.
District 1 AAA Wrestling Section Alignment for
Central Bucks East
Central Bucks South
Central Bucks West
Owen J. Roberts
Council Rock North
Council Rock South
Harry S. Truman
West Chester East
West Chester Henderson
West Chester Rustin
NOTE: We will take a more in-depth look at the new coaches in the SOL in the days leading up to the start of the season.