Nick Shawley heard the same whispers from college coaches.
They wanted him on their roster. They wanted to curtail his scrambling once he started competing at the Division-I level.
For now, Shawley, who begins his senior season for Bellefonte tonight against State College, said he will maintain his unpredictable ways.
“I know there’s a difference in the college style,” he said. “But what I do now works for me. I don’t know. I’m just going to stick with it.”
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It’s hard to argue the results.
One of Centre County’s most exciting wrestlers, Shawley twisted, contorted and rolled to a fourth-place PIAA Class AAA finish and 40 victories last season.
Shawley parlayed the strong junior season into multiple Division-I offers. He recently signed a letter of intent with Clarion. West Virginia, Bucknell and Bloomsburg also expressed interest.
The collegiate style, especially when upperweights are involved, makes scrambling difficult. The nation’s best wrestlers are chiseled brutes, thus making it difficult to hit any big move.
Bellefonte coach Mike Maney, a two-time All-American at Lock Haven University, promoted an underrated portion of Shawley’s arsenal to Clarion head coach Troy Letters and assistant Keith Ferraro. Maney said Shawley has the ability to control an opponent from the top position, a critical element in college wrestling because of riding time.
“High school wrestlers struggle with that when they get to college, especially the ones who are really good on their feet,” Maney said. “You have to be good in all three positions in college, and I think learning mat wrestling is one adjustment that takes time. Nick already has part of that equation.”
After going 29-27 his first two seasons, Maney said Shawley started blossoming during the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons. His schedule allowed him to add muscle. He spent mornings and evenings working for a family-owned landscaping business, a physically demanding way to spend his summer break. After work, he would lift more, moving weights instead of rocks, sand, mulch and seed.
He wrestled most of last season at 182 pounds before bumping to 195 for the postseason. He developed into one of the county’s most consistent wrestlers, placing at the King of the Mountain, Powerade, New Oxford, District 6, Northwest Regional and PIAA tournaments. He went 4-2 at the state tournament despite being outweighed by more than 10 pounds in some bouts.
“Good things happen you put the effort in,” Maney said. “When you put in the hard work, you get wins on the mat and opportunities come about down the road. He got looks at the end of his junior year and he’s picked a school before his senior year. It’s well deserved.”
Shawley wrestled throughout this past spring and summer, even making a trip to the Disney Duals as part of the talented Keystone Brawlers team. Clarion sent Shawley multiple letters and he took an official visit in September.
The Golden Eagles are experiencing a coaching transition. Former Penn State assistant Matt Dernlan left after one year as head coach to take the same position at Binghamton University. Letters, another former Penn State assistant, was named interim coach. The 30-year-old Letters became the school’s permanent coach last month. He served as Dernlan’s top assistant last season.
Letters, a tenacious mat wrestler, won a NCAA title at Lehigh. His credentials and personality impressed Shawley.
“He’s going to make this team into something big,” said Shawley, who wants to study communications or marketing. “He already is with the kids that are going there and the kids that are hopefully going there.”
Shawley prepared for this season by competing in the Super 32 Challenge and Lock Haven Fall Classic. He could wrestle anywhere from 170 to 195 pounds this post season. Maney, assistant coach Pat Flynn and returning PIAA heavyweight medalist Garrett Poorman are his primary workout partners.
The trio pushes Shawley and allows him to experience a college-like environment in a high school wrestling room.
“I just wanted to make sure after last year that I didn’t go on a downward progression,” Shawley said “Hopefully I place higher at states this year.”
Let it begin
Bellefonte and State College aren’t the only county teams beginning their seasons this weekend.
Bald Eagle Area opens its season at the two-day, 18-team Williamsport Top Hat Tournament.
The Eagles finished second behind Central Mountain last year. BEA’s Jake Taylor, Aaron Varner and Nate Sharkey are returning champions. Travis Giedroc also reached the 2011 finals.
BEA should be a major factor in this year’s team race. Central Mountain, Mifflinburg, Tri-Valley and Central Columbia are other title contenders.
The tournament begins at 5 p.m. tonight. The finals and place bouts are scheduled for 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
Philipsburg-Osceola hosts its annual Mountaineer Tournament on Saturday. Altoona, Central Dauphin East, Curwensville, James Buchanan, Moshannon Valley, New Oxford and Somerset join P-O in the eight-team field. The tournament begins at 9 a.m.
P-O junior Chris Thompson started his varsity career by winning last year’s 106-pound title. His performance helped the Mounties capture the team title.
State College has a busy weekend. The Little Lions are also competing in Saturday’s St. Marys Tournament.
The nation’s best preseason wrestling guide again belongs to Lock Haven resident and Pennsylvania wrestling and football guru Tom Elling.
The details on Elling’s 2012-13 handbook: 356 pages, records and 2011-12 placings for every returning wrestler in Pennsylvania, information about returning wrestlers from bordering states and lists of every PIAA champion and placewinner.
Ordering information can be found at www.pawrsl.com.
Eleven Pennsylvania teams, including defending PIAA Class AAA champion Canon-McMillan, are participating in this weekend’s Walsh Ironman Tournament. The Ohio event has replaced the Beast of the East as the nation’s top regular-season tournament. Two members of Penn State’s recruiting class – Benton’s Zain Retherford and Chambersburg’s Garett Hammond – are participating in the tournament. ...Class AAA Northwest Regional contenders wrestle tonight when McDowell visits DuBois.