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Monday, October 27, 2014

Getting ready for the 2014-15 season

I have started to prepare for the upcoming season. The first step, as it always is, is to get the latest copy of Tom Elling's Pennsylvania Wrestling Handbook. It's filled with great information, such as the returning wrestlers for each PIAA school, along with their record and district/regional/state finish. It also includes placewinners from all of the top tournaments in the state. It's a truly great resource and one that I use throughout the year.
As part of my season preview, I'll again use the book to look at what each team has returning this season. It usually takes a few weeks, but I should be able to have it ready for the start of the season.
 I'd also like to reach out to all of the coaches in districts 5 and 6. Please send me your schedules ASAP. I've added a calendar to the bottom of the blog that I would like to include every event that a district 5 or 6 team is participating in, but I need your cooperation. Please email schedules to
Also, for those of you in The Tribune-Democrat's coverage area, I should have access to any rosters and questionnaires that you send there, but I'd still ask that you CC me on those as well, just to be sure. If you're not part of The Tribune-Democrat's coverage area, please send me info anyway. I'd love to expand the blog to include more info on teams outside of my coverage area, such as D5 teams other than Bedford and Chestnut Ridge as well as D6 teams outside of Cambria County, in either AA or AAA.
I'm looking forward to the season and to seeing and hearing from so many of you again. So, if you have something you'd like to see on here, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Will Northern Cambria ever have a wrestling program again?

District 6 will be without one of its Class AA programs this year, and the future doesn't look too bright for getting it back.
As I reported on Tuesday for The Tribune-Democrat, Northern Cambria has suspended its wrestling program. It's not all that surprising, given the fact that the Colts have been struggling with numbers for years, and after speaking with Athletic Director Jim Yeager, it certainly seemed like the right call.
Northern Cambria had nine varsity wrestlers last season, but five of those were seniors. Of the four returning, one goes to Purchase Line High School, leaving just three wrestlers from Northern Cambria. Making matters worse was the fact that Northern Cambria didn't have a single junior high wrestler last year. That's right, not one.
Hard to justify all of the costs involved with a wrestling program for three wrestlers. Even if they did talk a few first-year guys into coming out - which I didn't get any indication of, since Yeager was not permitted to give specific numbers - the odds are stacked against guys who don't wrestle until they get to the varsity level.
If you're reading this blog, you likely know that wrestling isn't a sport for everyone. It's demanding. It's hard. It's often painful. You either love it or you don't do it for long.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there is a love for it in the Northern Cambria School District at this point.
Perhaps the most distressing part of the situation is the apathy surrounding the sport. Yeager, who wrestled in high school and was around the sport for decades at Cambria Heights, said that he didn't hear from single parent regarding the decision to cancel the season. A whole week and no one called to ask if Northern Cambria could field a team that only wrestles tournaments, like St. Joseph's Academy did last year? Not one person inquiring as to whether or not team members could wrestle for Cambria Heights or another school?
That's disturbing. Schools put wrestling teams on the chopping block from time to time, but there is usually an effort to save the program, such as there was with Washington High in 2012. It doesn't look there is any in Northern Cambria.
I called the school's varsity coach and a former coach and neither returned my phone calls, so I wasn't able to gain any insight into what the sport looks like at the youth levels, but I'm guessing there isn't much there, either.
There is a Northern Cambria wrestling Facebook page, but it hasn't been updated since July 20. Where is the effort to save the Colts?
Northern Cambria started its program in 1998-99, and has never had much success in dual meets, going a combined 39-202 in its career, but it has produced a number of quality individuals. It's had a pair of district champs (Andy Turner in 2005 and Mike Paronish in 2006) and three 100-match winners (Turner, Paronish and Scott Knarr). That's a nice little lineage it has going.
It seems to be so difficult for newer programs to take root and flourish. Shade, which started around the same time, has faced many of the same struggles as Northern Cambria. Yes, the Panthers had a full lineup when Ryan Hill was the coach and beating the drum for the program, but they dropped off quickly after he stepped down. They had very good wrestler in James "Wolf" Otten, but they haven't been able to duplicate that success.
Neither Northern Cambria nor Shade has been around long enough to have wrestlers who have the sport in their DNA. Take a look at the successful programs in the area and the names on their rosters. Odds are, they are the same names that were there 20-something years ago.
Wrestling is a sport that is often passed on from father to son. It relies on those who grew up with the sport. Sadly, it looks like there might never be a second generation of Turners, Knarrs or Paronishes for Northern Cambria.