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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Otten opts for Edinboro

James "Wolf" Otten has always had his doubters.
He did when he racked up big win totals as a sophomore but didn't make it out of the District 5 tournament.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TAMI KNOPSNYDER
James "Wolf" Otten went 37-11 as a senior.
Winning the District 5 title as a junior didn't silence his critics, either, as he went 0-2 at the Southwest Regional tournament.
This year, when his record wasn't as good - mostly because he wrestled some of the area's best competition - he was doubted again.
Otten, who set virtually every wrestling record that Shade has, will undoubtedly have critics again, as he announced Tuesday that he plans to wrestle at Edinboro University.
It's too big of a step up in competition for him, many will say.
Not that Otten can argue too much. He initially thought the same thing.

“It seemed a little big for me at first,” Otten said of the competition at Edinboro. “It was like, ‘Wow there are so many good kids. How can I compete with them?’ ”
But Otten is convinced that the quality in the Edinboro wrestling room - the Scots have placed in the top 10 at the NCAA tournament three of the past seven years - can help elevate him.
And after hearing for four years that he wasn't facing good enough competition, who can blame him?
He went 119-27 and recorded a Somerset County-record 78 career falls during his career despite not having any standout teammates to practice with at Shade. Instead, he worked out with the coaches and often would leave his school practice early in time to get to a Young Guns practice.
"I wrestled the coaches a lot," he said. "They would beat me up. It wasn’t like everyone in the room wasn’t as good as me, but going to Young Guns definitely helped. I had guys my age around my weight that were great workout partners."
He'll have plenty of those at Edinboro.

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Familiar path: I have to admit, I've got a bit of a soft spot for Otten. His path is somewhat similar to mine. He was Shade's first District 5 champion (I was Berlin's). Both of us wrestled for teams that often faced weaker competition. We each led Somerset County in pins as seniors. Neither of us brought home a state medal. We each wanted to test ourselves by wrestling for a Division I school and we each ended up heading to an in-state school in the Eastern Wrestling League (I went to Pitt).
So, good for you, Wolf. Go for your dream. Mine didn't turn out quite as well as I'd hoped, but I can't complain too much about being a starter on a top-20 team, a two-year letterwinner and an 18-match winner as a senior.
Here's hoping yours goes even better.

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Weighty issue: Otten said that the Edinboro coaching staff told him that they expect him to be at 157 or 165 pounds, but that he's leaning toward 165. He said he currently weighs about 170.

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Name game: Local wrestling fans likely will recognize some other names on the Scots' roster. Tyrone grad A.J. Schopp and Mitchell Port, a Bellefonte grad, each had a great season as a redshirt freshman, finishing a win short of the All-American round.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Central Cambria's Risaliti faces challenge at West Point

PHOTO COURTESY OF TKO PHOTOS
Central Cambria's Tony Risaliti is headed to West Point, N.Y.,
where he'll attend the United States Military Academy and
wrestle for the Black Knights.
As if facing the demands of the United States Military Academy and Division I wrestling weren't enough, Central Cambria's Tony Risaliti will have a little more added pressure on him when he heads to West Point.
Army coach Joe Heskett wants Risaliti to wrestle 149 pounds, a weight that he hasn't seen in almost two years.
"It’s going to take discipline," said Risaliti, who wrestled 160 in 41 of his 42 bouts this season - and 170 in the the other. "They have a bunch of wrestlers at 157 pounds, so ’49 is what they really want me to go out. I believe it will be a good fit for me, if I can get down to 149 pounds."
If there's any local wrestler that can handle all of it, Risaliti seems to be the one. It's difficult to find a nicer kid, and he's obviously a hard worker. How can  you doubt anyone that's able to balance a winter schedule that often includes school, high school practice, swimming practice (his mom coaches the Red Devils) and Young Guns practice while maintaining a 3.8 grade-point average?
Risaliti won't be wrestling for Army next season. He'll attend prep school for a year, where he will be able to wrestle, before suiting up for the Black Knights.
Still here's what the Army roster looked like this season at 149 - Ryan Bilyeu (sophomore 13-18); Daniel Young (junior 11-4); Jared Ross (freshman 4-6) and Ethan Snyder (freshman 0-0) and at 157 - Jimmy Rafferty (senior 24-16); Chandler Smith (freshman 4-4); Shawn Miracle (freshman 4-7); Paul Hancock (sophomore 2-3); Craemer Hedash (freshman 2-5); and Kenny Skillman (junior 1-3).
Risaliti might have a familiar face with him in the wrestling room. Central Cambria graduate Phil Steinberg went 0-2 as a freshman 197-pounder this season. (Yes, you read that right. After wrestling 140 pounds as a senior in high school two years ago, Steinberg is now WRESTLING UP 57 POUNDS.)
There were some rumors that Steinberg might transfer, but Central Cambria coach Bob Nikolishen said he believes the former Red Devil is staying at West Point.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TKO PHOTOS
Tony Risaliti has 26 falls this season for the Red Devils.
“Philip said he’s going to be a classmate with Tony Risaliti,” Nikolishen said. “That’s the last I’ve heard. We haven’t had contact recently, but as far as I know, he’s staying there.”
Risaliti was 37-5 as a senior. He won the District 6 Class AA title and was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler after beating Forest Hills' Cody Law in the finals. He was the Southwest Regional runner-up (losing to Law in the finals) and finished fourth in the state, with both of his losses in Hershey coming to Central Columbia's Kurt Meske.
Risaliti went 127-30 during his career at Central Cambria.
"He’s played such an intricate role in our program and with our kids," Nikolishen said. "When I got the head coaching job, he was a freshman and he taught me many, many things as far as coaching goes. He’s going to be very, very – I don’t want to say sadly missed – but it’s just going to be a great big hole that I hope that these younger guys have learned enough from that they can attempt to fill it."
Risaliti has some big goals ahead of him off the mat. He hopes to follow his parents, both of whom are physical therapists, into the medical field.
"Going into the medical field and having the opportunity to be a solider, I think he’s going to be great in both roles," Nikolishen said. "He’s a peacemaker and he’s calm when the situation needs a peacemaker. And he’s extremely aggressive when the situation dictates that he be so."
Nikolishen said Risaliti's drive also makes him well-suited for the Army.
"He attacked and he never stopped," Nikolishen said. "When he was down or when he was weak or when he was beaten, he was never going to accept that. He knows how to adapt and he knows how to overcome."
Sounds like a perfect young man for West Point.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Berchick commits to UPJ

Conemaugh Township's Cory Berchick poses for a photo
during a signing ceremony at the school. Standing behind
him are his brother Casey, parents Shawn and Rachel and
coach Jarod Feathers.
Jarod Feathers knew that Cory Berchick had the talent to be a state placewinner during his junior season. But the Conemaugh Township wrestler got sick before the District 5 tournament.and finished a disappointing third.
Wrestling what eventually was diagnosed as mononucleosis, Berchick didn't make it out of the Southwestern Regional tournament.
His 32-6 record was impressive, but without an appearance in Hershey to back it up, it wasn't enough to draw the attention of many college coaches.
Luckily for Berchick, he had another season remaining, and he made it count. He won District 5 and Southwest Regional titles at 152 pounds this season and placed sixth in the state tournament.
That was enough to get him noticed by Pitt-Johnstown's Pat Pecora, and Berchick signed a letter of intent to wrestle for the Mountain Cats on Monday.
"More and more calls came along and more and more things happened," Berchick said. "(Pecora) called me a lot of times."
Berchick, who said he plans to major in pre-physical therapy, chose UPJ over Waynesburg.

"It's local," Berchick said of why he picked Pitt-Johnstown. "I've always been looking up to UPJ, going to matches and seeing local kids wrestling there. I know what it's like."
Berchick finished with a career record of 132-24 and has the most wins in school history.

"We thought last year he was going to make a good run for us, but that mono really set in," Conemaugh Township coach Jarod Feathers said. "He was on a mission this year. He had a goal all year. That was to get on podium at states. It was a great experience and he did great. He accomplished his goal."