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Ligonier Valley wrestling lineup strong

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 8:33 p.m.
Bill Pribisco | for the Ligonier Echo
Wrestling team begins season The Ligonier Valley High School wrestling team are first row (from left) Mitchell Brown, Carlos Chavez, Daniel Croyle, Dereck Croyle and Justin Bellas; second row, Joseph Neiderhiser, Max Caldwell, Dalton Clark, Raymond Marsh and Mitchell Baker; third row, Brian Matson, head coach; Hayden Kuzemchak, Nathaniel Hockenberry, Nathan Trottier and Tom Brown, coach. Taken 11/18/2013 at Ligonier Valley High School

The Ligonier Valley wrestling team has gotten back onto the mats in preparation for the 2013-14 season. The team will travel to Conemaugh Township for a tournament on Dec. 6 and 7 to begin the season. Last year the team finished with a dual-match record of 9-6, and had four wrestlers finish in the top 10 spots in their weight classes at the District 6 Tournament.

Head Coach Brian Matson said his goal for this season is to continue to improve, whether it is the dual meet record, or at the individual level at tournaments, in the hopes that his wrestlers continue to make impacts at the regional and state tournaments, as well as to qualify for the District 6 dual meet championship.

“The effort is definitely there and I think the desire to compete, the desire to have some success is certainly there so far,” Matson noted. “Our lineup looks pretty solid through the middle weights. We may have a few weaker spots in the sense that we will have a couple guys who are first-year guys who we have to push into the lineup, because they are the only person at that weight, but I think we will have a solid season because we are tough through that middle part of the lineup.”

The team includes seniors Justin Bellas, Nick Boring, Mitch Brown, Carlos Chavez and twins Dan Croyle and Dereck Croyle.

The juniors are Mitch Baker, Max Caldwell, Ray Marsh, Joe Neiderhiser and Tyler Smith.

Sophomores include Dalton Clark, Nate Hockenberry, Hayden Kuzemchak, Gordon Matson and Nathan Trottier.

Matson said he expects the Croyle brothers to do well because both had solid records last season and continue to improve, even though both only started wrestling as freshmen.

He also expects Max Caldwell to step up and take the spot of Josh Patrick, who graduated last year and moved onto Rutgers University. Caldwell sat out part of last season, but Matson said he did well once he made it into the starting lineup.

Ray Marsh wrestled at 220 pounds last season and Matson said he struggled in his first year having to take on bigger and stronger opponents. However, Matson expects Marsh to turn a corner this year and will have a strong season in the weight class. Newcomers Dalton Clark and Nathan Trottier also show promise, according to Matson. Both were conference champions at the junior high level last year.

This season the team is missing junior Kyler Kruel, who wrestled in the heavyweight division. Kruel suffered a concussion playing football in 2012 and has not been cleared for contact.

Most noticeable is the absence of state place-winner Justin Patrick. Patrick has left Ligonier Valley to attend The Kiski School in the hopes of securing college scholarship opportunities. Matson commented that he wishes Patrick luck and believes that Kiski will provide the level on competition Patrick needs to improve on his third-place finish at the state tournament last season.

“It hurts definitely but it also provides somebody else with an opportunity to improve and step in and play a big part in our success,” Matson said. “It may not hurt us as much as you would expect to lose a state-place winner in the sense that we have a good kid at that weight class that is going to be successful as well.”

The Ligonier Rams first wrestling match is 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at United against the Lions.

Peter Turcik is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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