High School Sports

Penns Valley wrestling preview

Coach: Joel Brinker, seventh season

Assistants: Jeff Stover, John Myers, Michael Wise, Aaron Smith, Tim Beckenbaugh, Nick Brown

Last season: 10-10, 2-2 Mountain League

Key losses: Matt Swartz (35-5, PIAA Qualifier), Joey McNitt (17-12), Nate Brown (22-11)

Returning letterwinners: Cole Confer (Sr., 152-160, 16-13), Maverick Swartz (Sr., 195, 21-11), Kyler Confer (Jr., 132, 2-23), Michael Confer (Jr., 285, 1-5), Seth Decker (Jr., 145-152, 23-9), Michael Mundt (Jr., 220, 10-17), Jason Thoms (Jr., 160-170, 4-4), Jacob Confer (So., 126, 12-15), Kolton Confer (So., 113, 9-14), Corey Hazel (So., 160-170, 6-5), Michael Rogers (So., 182, 20-10)

Other wrestlers: Michael Decker (Sr., 120-126), Dalton Zerbe (Jr., 138), Matthew Hosterman (So., 132-138), Andrew Hurd (So., 145), Issac Bierly (Fr., 106), Curtis Decker (Fr., 113), Logan Johnson (Fr., 195-220)

The skinny: The Rams had their best off-season under Brinker, with Seth Decker, Hazel and Rogers qualifying for the Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D. The trio trains year-round, making frequent stops at the Mat-Town USA and Bison Wrestling Clubs. Decker and Rogers placed fifth at last season’s District 6 Class AA tournament, missing Southwest Regional berths by one victory. ...Zerbe went 13-19 at District 4 Midd-West last season. Freshman Curtis Decker, Seth’s younger brother, could make an instant impact at 113 pounds. ...The Rams wrestle five Class AAA teams, including Centre County opponents Philipsburg-Osceola, Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Area. Returning to the District 6 Class AA team duals for the first time since 2010 is a goal.

Coach Brinker says: “We have a good group back and a team that is experienced and improved from last year. They have had their feet in the fire. We had three kids who went to nationals in Fargo on the Pennsylvania freestyle and Greece-Roman teams. That’s huge for us. We have never had anything like that in the off-season. We have a good core group of guys who put in the time and know their stuff, and that’s rubbing off on the other guys.”