County wrestling programs are either returning plenty of experience and depth — or are looking at the next crop of underclassmen to lead the way this season.
Bald Eagle Area and Penns Valley return most of their starting lineups from last season. And Philipsburg-Osceola will be the most-experienced team in the county with seven letterwinners returning for their senior seasons.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy also returns five of its six wrestlers from last season and has added a good crop of underclassmen to the mix.
State College and Bellefonte, meanwhile, face a tall task in replacing a combined 20 seniors.
Here’s a look at the area’s teams going into the year:
Bald Eagle Area
The Eagles will be led by seniors Seth Koleno and Garrett Rigg as they return eight to the starting lineup.
Koleno and Rigg have signed National Letters of Intent to continue their wrestling careers at the Division I level. Koleno is going to Clarion, while Rigg will attend Lock Haven.
“We return three state qualifiers and are looking to them for leadership both on and off the mat,” second-year coach Ron Guenot said. “We are looking to build upon last season’s successes and continue to uphold the tradition that is BEA wrestling. We are excited to have many new additions to the team this season.”
BEA, which finished 11-5 last year, also has Gage McClenahan back. McClenahan, who made a name for himself on the junior high-level of wrestling, had a stellar freshman campaign by placing seventh at his first high school state tournament.
Red Raiders coach Mike Maney said if people were to look at his team on paper, they’d think Bellefonte is in a rebuilding year.
The Red Raiders, who finished 19-2 last year, lost 14 wrestlers in the offseason — nine to graduation and five others due to transfers. Plus, Bellefonte has to move on without state runner-up Brock Port.
“You don’t replace a guy like Brock Port,” Maney said. “We will need Cole Stewart, who is a returning state qualifier, to provide leadership for our team.”
Stewart is one of five returning letterwinners for the Red Raiders, which have regional qualifiers Ryan Smith, Alex Coppolo and Max Mondy also returning.
Maney said that this season will have uncertainty when it comes to the lineup, but he won’t use the word “rebuilding.”
“This would mean as a program you would lower your expectations,” he said. “The expectations always remain the same. Each day, we are going to work hard to achieve our individual and team goals. We don’t want our guys to just dip their toe in the water to test the temperature, but rather jump all in — total commitment to their teammates and program.”
The Rams, who were 13-7 last year, will have to replace Darren Yearick and Jared Hurd — and build on their third-place finish in the District 6 Class 2A team duals.
They are well on their way with seven starters back and with the return of Baylor Shunk, who finished seventh at states last season.
“We have several wrestlers that have very high goals for themselves, and others that are new to the sport that simply want to contribute to the team while learning the sport of wrestling,” Rams coach Joel Brinker said. “As an entire coaching staff, program and community, we look forward to helping these young men reach individual goals.”
Some of those other wrestlers with high goals will be Clayton Royer, Andrew Sharer and Abraham “The Hammer” Allebach. All three made it to the Southwest Regional tournament but came up just short in qualifying for the state tournament.
The Mounties crowned their first District 6 champion in nine years in Micah Sidorick during coach Brad Pataky’s first year at the helm last season.
Sidorick isn’t back this season, but P-O does have seven seniors that will provide plenty of leadership for the team.
Both Josh Hubler and Matt Johnson return. Hubler was one of three Mounties wrestlers to advance to the Northwest Regional tournament, and Johnson wasn’t able to compete in the District 6 tournament last season because he suffered a shoulder injury right before.
Winning and losing though isn’t Pataky’s main priority. He came to P-O from the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club and under the tutelage of Cael Sanderson, so he’s focused on improvement.
“We are looking forward to providing our student-athletes with opportunities to better themselves in all areas of their lives,” Pataky said. “Our primary goal as a program is to instill solid character among every individual, exhibiting a good attitude and demonstrating maximum effort.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy
This could be a historic season for St. Joseph’s. A large roster should only help.
The Wolves had six wrestlers last season, and five of them returned. However, St. Joseph’s added another six wrestlers this year for a near-full 14-man lineup.
With all the added wrestlers in the room, St. Joseph’s is set to host its very first dual against Tyrone on Dec. 13.
Caleb Dowling returns as the program’s first state place-winner with a fourth-place finish at 132 pounds. Also returning are Ethan Kauffman and Jacob Powers, who also made it to the state tournament a year ago. Powers became the program’s first Southwest Regional Class 2A champion.
“The guys had a very good offseason, with several of them competing in the PA Freestyle States and going to Fargo,” coach Pat Flynn said. “We have a good young nucleus coming back with some freshmen coming in to challenge them.”
Some of those younger guys include Malachi DuVall, Zach Witmer and Keegan Rothrock.
The Little Lions went from being one of the most-experienced teams a season ago to one of the youngest.
They will have to replace 11 seniors — which include Pete Haffner, Drew Linnes and Adam Stover.
However, State College at least will see the return of Cole Urbas, who finished last season in the top three of the state at 182 pounds. Ian Barr, one of just four senior letterwinners, also returns.
The balance of upperclassmen to the underclassmen is one that coach Ryan Cummins welcomes this season.
“We are very excited to have upperclassmen that were very successful last year, (step in) as leaders to guide our younger guys,” he said. “Our sophomores and freshmen, we expect them to make an impact on the varsity team.”
High School Wrestling
Bald Eagle Area
Head coach: Ron Guenot (2nd season)
Assistant coaches: Kyle Wallace, Eddie Hockenberry, Zack Beitz, Steve Stem, Travis Stem, Josh Fye, Kyle Fluke
Last season’s record: 11-5
Key losses: Alec Nyman, Drew Koleno, Clayton Giedroc, Joey Gates, Bailey Irvin, Andrew Cohen
Returning letterwinners: Garrett Giedroc (Jr.), Lucas Holderman (Sr.), Seth Koleno (Sr.), Garrett Rigg (Sr.), Gage McClenahan (Soph.), Richard Taylor (Jr.), Dylan Bisel (Jr.), David Close (Soph.), Kurt Hall (Sr.)
Key newcomers: Cooper Gilham (Fr.), Zander Ballock (Fr.), Drake Holderman (Fr.), Devin Kibe (Soph.), Rex Johnson (Soph.), Nate Poole (Sr.), Ben Yetsko (Soph.), Zack Wible (Soph.), Tyler Hall (Jr.), Rilee Bechdel (Sr.), Asher Burkett (Soph.)
Head coach: Mike Maney (11th season)
Assistant coaches: Nate Alterio, Richard Taylor, Keith Taylor, Evan Benner, Brandon Reish, Mark Maney, Matt Marris
Last season’s record: 19-2
Key losses: James Boland (Sr.), Mason Cooper (Sr.), Cam Coppolo (Sr.), Chase Gardner (Sr.), Sean Irvin (Sr.), Brien McChesney (Sr.), Lukas McClure (Sr.), Brock Port (Sr.), Nate Wert (Sr.)
Returning letterwinners: Alex Coppolo (Soph.), Cole Stewart (Jr.), Ryan Smith (Jr.), Max Mondy (Sr.), Andrew Davidson (Sr.)
Key newcomers: Ethan Richner (Fr.) Ethan Rossman (Fr.)
Head coach: Joel Brinker (11th season)
Assistant coaches: Mike Wise, Wayne Yearick, Colby Stover
Last season’s record: 13-7
Key losses: Darren Yearick, Jared Hurd, Hunter Homan, Corey Rimmey, Jared Bressler
Returning letterwinners: Baylor Shunk, Clayton Royer, Clay Upcraft, Andrew Sharer, Carter Felker, Abraham Allebach, Mike Mundt, Dillon Covalt
Key newcomers: Justin Darlington (Fr.), Haden Stamm (Sr.), Jason Ticknor (Sr.), Charles Martin (Soph.), Zach Royer (Soph.), Isaac Spotts (Jr.), Garrett Lucas (Soph.)
Head coach: Brad Pataky (2nd season)
Assistant coaches: Jeremy Weller, Matt Lobb, Jake Krupa
Last season’s record: 7-9
Returning letterwinners: Brandon Anderson (Sr.), Josh Hubler (Sr.), Matt Johnson (Sr.), Ian Klinger (Sr.), Jordan Smith (Sr.), Kyle Taylor (Sr.), Noah Twoey (Sr.), Tristan Beauseigneur (Jr.), Matt Shimmel (Jr.), Chase Chapman (Soph.)
Key newcomers: Hunter Weitoish (Fr.)
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy
Head coach: Pat Flynn (20 years, 2nd season)
Last season’s record: 0-5
Key losses: Trey Millward
Returning letterwinners: Jacob Powers (Jr.), Ethan Kauffman (Soph.), Julian Simmons (Soph.), Caleb Dowling (Soph.), Evan Courts (Soph.)
Key newcomers: Malachi DuVall (Fr.), Zach Witmer (Fr.), Amonn Ohl (Fr.), Lane Aikey (Fr.), Keegan Rothrock (Soph.), Zak Rosenburg (Jr.)
Head coach: Ryan Cummins (5th season)
Assistant coaches: Bud Price, Tim Haas, Max Miller
Last season’s record: 7-11
Key losses: Pete Haffner, Drew Linnes, Adam Stover
Returning letterwinners: Cole Urbas (Jr.), Ian Barr (Sr.), Clayton Leidy (Soph.), Ben Krick (Jr.), Jason Zuech (Sr.), Ryan Kunz (Sr.), Isaac Sublett (Jr.), Isaiah Lose (Sr.), Seth McMahon (Jr.)
Key newcomers: Lance Urbas (Fr.), Owen Woolcott (Fr.), Sam Storll (Soph.), Trevor Beck (Soph.), Kyle Domico (Soph.), Tate McLaughlin (Soph.), Josiah Lose (Soph.)