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1st-year Mt. Pleasant wrestling coach hopeful

| Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011

Mt. Pleasant graduate Mike Long knows the strong traditions that are part of many of the school's athletic programs.

The wrestling program has had its share of success, including a WPIAL Class AA team title in 2003, and Long is hopeful he can get the Vikings on the right path.

"I just want to get the program back to where it was in the past," he said.

Long is replacing former coach Brandon Mikeska, and he's bringing in a couple of former Connellsville standouts in Ashtin Primus and Jake Knepper to help with the transition. Primus and Knepper were part of Connellsville's 2005 state championship team. Primus will help the Vikings through January before returning to Notre Dame College, where he still has a semester of wrestling eligibility remaining.

"They are both young and vibrant in an evolving sport," Long said, also noting that assistant coach Greg Guzy will oversee the junior high wrestlers.

In his first season, Long likes what he sees.

"The kids that we have are hard-nosed kids," Long said. "They're tough, and they'll do everything they can in order to be successful. They're the same type of kids that were here 20 or 30 years ago."

While toughness doesn't appear to be an issue, participation could be a problem. Mt. Pleasant has only 13 wrestlers on the varsity roster and expects to forfeit at least two weights (106 and 120 pounds) in most matches.

"The teams in our section that will be successful will be the ones that can fill all the weights," Long said. "We're going to be giving up 12 points (from forfeits), but the kids that we'll have on the mat are great athletes that will put points on the board."

The Vikings are primarily made up of underclassmen, with two exceptions. Ashton Cassa (182 pounds) and Cole Murtha (160) are the lone seniors and are also captains.

Both agree that success can be achieved with this year's team.

"There is a lot of potential with the younger wrestlers," Murtha said. "We're like a family through the wrestling season, and hopefully, we can make it to the playoffs and do well when we get there."

Cassa said it will come down to putting the time in to achieve success.

"We're a young team, so we have to practice hard and be dedicated," Cassa said.

Aside from freshman Shawn Prinkey (113) and junior Andy Yoder (126), the Vikings likely will struggle at the light weights.

The team's strength will be in the middle with Murtha as well as juniors Aldo Garcia (132), Bobby Long (145/152), Eli Holt (170) and Justin Overly (170) and freshmen Ethan Charlesworth (138) and Austin Mears (145/152).

Cassa, along with juniors Jacob Yurko (195) and Jack Keslar (heavyweight) and freshman Jonah Long (195) will anchor the heavier weights.

"We struggle to fill some weights, but these kids want to be successful," Long said. "They need to be a little more aggressive and continue to work on being more well-rounded wrestlers. But our kids are in shape, and they don't quit."

Additional Information:

At a glance

-- The Vikings open the season by taking part in the Hampton Duals on Dec. 9-10.

-- Mt. Pleasant will compete in Section 2-AA (2B) with Charleroi, Derry, Jeannette, Southmoreland and Yough.

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