Area wrestlers set to take to the mats
How will area wrestling teams fare in the upcoming season?
Well, who is to judge?
One thing is certain is that Charleroi opens the season with a new head coach for the second straight year and Belle Vernon Area and Ringgold hope to reach the team playoffs.
Here is a capsule look at the three area teams:
First-year Charleroi mat mentor Chad Alexis has moved up from assistant last year, so he was aware of what to expect heading into the season.
“We only have to kids that have ever won a varsity match in Pennsylvania,” he said. “And we only have two kids who wrestled in middle school last year.
“Although we aren't experienced, the kids are working hard.”
Junior Nick Gavazzi (145 pounds) went 36-5 a year ago at 132 pounds while junior Jeremy Jones (106) picked up seven wins.
“Nick is very talented,” Alexis said. “We expect him to pick up from where he left off last year.”
The Cougars picked up a transfer from out of state in sophomore Trevor Jorgenson (138), and the three of them provide all of the Cougars' varsity experience.
Despite the lack of collective varsity mat time, Alexis is happy with what he sees.
“They come in every day and give t everything they have,” he said of his team. “I just want them to go out and work hard.
“All I expect is hard work.”
The Cougars open up this weekend in the Chartiers-Houston tournament.
When programs lose a successful class to graduation, it usually leaves sports teams thin.
That is the case for Ringgold, sort of.
The team only has two seniors, but Ringgold head coach Bob Bove sees it as a positive.
“The good news is that we have a big, talented junior class and some tough sophomores,” he said. “We would like to have more seniors but we have a bunch of underclassmen who have started and have gained varsity experience.”
Leading the way is a pair of juniors who are three-year starters in Devin Fallenstein (160) and Kenny Tarpley (132) and sophomore Jacob Gerard (126).
Fallenstein was a section champ last year and has 62 career wins while Tarpley has 53.
Gerard had 31 a year ago as a freshman.
“All three have a solid shot of making states,” Bove aid. “But it is up to them and how hard they work.”
Bove shared his goals for the team.
“We want to get back to the playoffs,” he said. “There are some pretty good teams that we will battle with.”
After heading to the North Coast Classic in Cleveland this weekend, Ringgold is thrown right into the Section 2 fire as it faces favorite Connellsville.
“They are the pick so we will see where we are,” Bove said. “Our guys work hard.
“We don't have the numbers like some of the teams, but we get more out of our guys than anyone else.”
Belle Vernon Area
Heading into his team's tournament that begins tonight at Gateway, Belle Vernon Area wrestling coach John Jolley didn't hesitate when asked about his expectations for this season.
“Our team expectations are to make the playoffs again,” he said. “Individual goals, it depends on who it is.
“For our top guys, making states is the goal. For others, it is a winning record. We set realistic goals.”
Leading the way are seniors Adam Nickelson (182) and Nate Russo (126), and junior Breandan Hasson (120).
“Adam placed eighth at states last year and has done everything right to prepare for this season,” Jolley said. “We expect a trip to Hrshey out of Nate after missing it by one match the last two years.
“And (Hasson) is one of our top performers.”
Jolley continued about the trio. “We are counting on those three for a lot of points,” he said. “And we have some really good freshmen moving up and that always helps.”
The Leps are in the rugged Section 2 which is broken into two divisions. They are in division A with Ringgold, Connellsville, Albert Gallatin, Elizabeth Forward, and Thomas Jefferson.
“It won't be easy,” Jolley said of a return trip to the playoffs. “We picked up some tough teams.”
BVA hosts Elizabeth Forward Tuesday.