Five Junior Jaguars compete at state tourney
The Thomas Jefferson junior high wrestling program recently wrapped up a banner 2016-17 season.
And not only was it a banner campaign, it was historic.
Five team members qualified for the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling state championships, the most in one season in program history.
The state championships were held March 4-5 in Johnstown.
TJ's qualifiers consisted of Mike Zacur (102 pounds), Kale Buckiso (107), Brian Finnerty (112), Jake Fisher (132) and Trystan Alava (140).
Buckiso and Zacur made it to the semifinals, where they lost close bouts. Buckiso finished fourth in his weight class; Zacur placed sixth.
“The five guys who qualified had good seasons. I am proud of all of them,” said second-year coach Jordan Moss. “With Mikey and Kale getting to the placing rounds is just an outstanding job.
“I tell those guys they one-upped me already because I never placed down there in junior high states. It is such a huge accomplishment. It is such a confidence builder at this age that I hope will transition into next year when they go up to varsity.”
Michael Ladick, coach of Thomas Jefferson's varsity wrestling program, praised the performance of the Junior Jaguars.
“We are very proud of our junior high wrestlers for their accolades this year,” Ladick said. “The five (state) qualifiers have put their time in getting extra workouts and working hard all season. Making the state tournament is a great way to help build interest and growth in the youth programs because the younger wrestlers can see it is within reach.
“It is so important for our junior high wrestlers to be a part of that atmosphere and learn from those experiences.”
Ladick anticipates several wrestlers on the junior high team being able to make an impact at the varsity level in 2017-18; in particular, Buckiso and Zacur.
“Kale and Michael placing (at the state tournament) helps build confidence, and hopefully vision, toward the next step in making an impact on varsity,” Ladick said. “Both Kale and Michael have worked very hard, and our coaching staff is proud to see their season culminate with such high honors.
“Kale and Michael have found this happy medium between being a brawler and clinician. The experience of medaling at the junior high state tournament is invaluable, and hopefully it drives the next stage of their wrestling careers.”
Along with Zacur, Buckiso, Finnerty, Fisher and Alava, Thomas Jefferson's junior high wrestling program consisted of Nate Krutules, Ben Eckenrod, Marco Gambino, Jace Dorsey, Nate Werderber, Denver Haynes, Danny Marcinko, Terry Newbegin, Luke Bell and Mac Stanek.
Moss was assisted by Donnie Cardone this season.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.