Penn State Fayette wrestlers look to take next step
In its first season of existence, the Penn State Fayette wrestling program was able to grind out four wins. This season, the goals are a bit higher as the program continues to try to build its numbers and its level of competitiveness.
“We have a lot of young kids, and they've been practicing hard,” said coach Jerry Simon, who is overseeing the development of the program after more than 30 years as a wrestling coach at Uniontown High School. “We started in October, and the guys have been doing well.”
One of Penn State Fayette's biggest obstacles is finding enough wrestlers to compete and practice on a consistent basis. This year, the roster is still in a state of flux, but the Roaring Lions will have seven wrestlers competing in the season-opening Washington & Jefferson Invitational on Saturday.
“Staying healthy is important because we have a limited roster,” Simon said. “But we have a nice solid foundation.”
Penn State Fayette's biggest strength might be in the middle of its lineup. Senior Dan Karpency (157 pounds), an Albert Gallatin graduate, is a returning PSUAC champion. He'll be joined by freshmen Nate Spinetti (285) and John Lukart (149). Both Spinetti (Uniontown) and Lukart (Elizabeth Forward) were WPIAL qualifiers last season with Spinetti won the Section 2-AAA individual championship at heavyweight.
“I really don't know what to expect this season,” Spinetti said. “I just want to hold my own and win as many matches as I can. We're competitive, and we keep each other going.”
Also joining the lineup are a number of other freshmen, including Alex Diaz (133, Old Bridge, N.J.), Wade Durbin (174 or 184, West Greene), Joe Phillips (174 or 184, Jefferson-Morgan), Nick Hewitt (197, Hempfield) and Chris Jones (285, Southmoreland). Juniors Mark Hall (165, Connellsville) and Will Riffle (285, Albert Gallatin) and sophomore Mhye Brown (141, Columbus, Ga.) also add to the roster.
As with many young programs, building toward success is often a challenge. But, Simon said positive steps are being taken, and the goal this season will be to continue to trend in a positive direction.
“I think we are progressing,” Simon said. “We're picking up some recruits and hopefully we'll pick up even more guys. Hopefully, we can try to finish in the upper half of the PSUAC. We want to try to be competitive with the established programs and just continue to get better. And last, but not least, we want to have fun.”
Notes: Simon will be assisted by Pat Tressler. ... The Roaring Lions will host two home PSUAC matches this season, Penn State New Kensington on Jan. 15 and Penn State Beaver on Jan. 18.
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.