Vikings prepare for title defense
For the Mount Pleasant wrestling team, it's going to be difficult to top last season. The Vikings tore through Section 1-AA, finishing with an undefeated record and earning the section title, before edging out Burrell in a 32-31 WPIAL Class AA championship match. From there, it was on to the state tournament, where Mount Pleasant reached the semifinals. In addition to the outstanding efforts of the team as a whole, several individuals also had outstanding seasons, but head coach Mark Mears said the Vikings just might be able to do even better.
"They probably met their potential (last season)," Mears laughed. "I think the way you top it is you challenge them each individually, and collectively, the whole should be stronger."
Mears said Mount Pleasant lost four seniors to graduation, but the Vikings also retained four seniors and eight lettermen.
"You should have a core of leadership, kids that understand now what it's going to take to be successful," he said.
Mears is already seeing several positives in this year's squad.
"One of our strengths is our strength. They lift weights religiously," he said, adding that confidence is something else Mount Pleasant has. "Anytime you've been through it and done it, it's not so ominous out in front of you."
Add that to the technique which Mears said "was pretty good to begin with," and the Vikings seem to be a formidable opponent. Even the squad's relatively high number of underclassmen doesn't seem to be much of a drawback, particularly considering the strong performances many of those young athletes turned in last season.
"Wrestling is so advanced today, kids can wrestle year-round. It matters what grade you're in, but not the way it did 10 years ago," Mears said.
Mears is more worried about the loss of sophomore Jeff Marker, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury he sustained playing football. But Mears said Mount Pleasant has added wrestlers in a couple of weight classes that had been concerns.
"We were able to get a 103-pounder, which was a concern," he said. "And we picked up Adam Harr at heavyweight."
Mears said Mount Pleasant is gunning for another title as well as hoping to qualify several players for the PIAA tournament.
"We feel that we have the potential to qualify at least six kids for states. We feel that we have the talent to do that, as long as we're healthy," he said.
As for another section championship, Mears said a couple of other teams could provide tough challenges.
"I honestly believe any of three teams could win it on any given night -- us, Burrell and Derry. Burrell returned a lot of kids, and Derry gets some nice kids up from the junior high," he said, noting that it will most likely depend on which team gets the match-ups it wants when going head-to-head. "I think if we're healthy, we can be right there."
Elderton, Jeannette, Riverview, Shady Side Academy, Southmoreland, Steel Valley and Yough are also in the section.
Mount Pleasant will raise its championship banner at the season opener on Wednesday, Dec. 3, when the Vikings host the Scotties.