Elderton wrestling lives on at West Shamokin, but more grapplers needed
The re-establishment of a wrestling program at West Shamokin allowed grapplers and their coaches to carry on the work done earlier at Elderton.
However, the Wolves aren't far from square one as they prepare for this season.
A young, inexperienced lineup will don West Shamokin gear, which first appeared when Elderton closed in 2009 but went back into boxes when Elderton reopened a year later. The Wolves, who have three returning starters and only one senior, are seven members deep.
Most of the current wrestlers are former Elderton students. But the boys hope to generate interest among the unfamiliar study body at West Shamokin this winter.
“I'm hoping that once the kids over here get a taste of it and maybe come to a match, maybe we'll get some more kids,” said coach Matt Reefer, who led the team at Elderton, too. “I think a lot of kids over here have never even seen a wrestling match. They don't know what it is.”
Senior David Batistig and sophomores Brenden Glover and Brian Brown are the ones for others to follow. Batistig competed at 126 pounds as a junior but endured an injury-shortened season. Glover and Brown, wrestling at 152 and 160 pounds, respectively, each won at least 19 matches and qualified for the WPIAL Class AA tournament.
Batistig will start in the 132-pound weight class this winter.
“It's my last year, and it's a small team, so I'm focused on myself,” Batistig said. “But I'm also focused on the guys in junior high, because there's a pack of them. So whenever they move up, if they know what they're doing in a couple years, they could have a monster team.”
Glover, who plans to wrestle at 170, will look to surpass the 20-13 mark he had as a first-year starter.
“I feel a lot of pressure,” he said. “I just want to get past WPIALs. I got stopped last year. I was close to beating the kids that I lost to, but I just couldn't do it.”
Brown is slotted in the 160 weight class. But an unspecified injury forced him to miss a large portion of the offseason and all of the preseason, said Reefer, who expects the sophomore to begin practicing next week.
Glover and Batistig have devoted much of the preseason to priming a collection of underclassmen for the challenges of varsity action. The group includes sophomores Collin Adamson (152 pounds), Alex Boyer (138) and John Wissinger (195) and freshman Brian Lukehart (113).
“They're tough kids,” Reefer said. “Lukehart, the kid is built like a brick wall. He'll do whatever you ask him to. The other first-year kids, they'll also do what you tell them to. They don't complain. They work hard, and that's all you can ask of them.”
West Shamokin is one of several Section 3-AA programs with dwindling participation numbers. Highlands shelved its team for one season due to a limited turnout — wrestlers from the school can still compete at individual tournaments, however.
And Shady Side Academy, with fewer than 10 wrestlers, chose to continue with a dual-meet schedule.
“If we match up right, we have a shot,” Reefer said. “But most of our section is pretty tough.
“Dave and Brenden are going to be our horses. The rest of the guys are just going to have to try to follow suit and learn as much as they can. We have to get them as much mat time as we can.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.