Back-and-forth they went last season.
The matches between Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West were close … and physical.
Pittston Area is coming off a solid 2012-13 season. Behind 100-match winner and four-time medal winner Angelo Lussi, the Patriots won the Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament. But it was two losses against Wyoming Valley West that hit the Pats hard.
The Spartans got the best of the Patriots in a close dual meet, 39-33. Then, Pittston Area made it to the semifinals of the District 2 Class AAA tournament, before falling to Valley West again, this time 41-30.
“Valley West is going to be really tough again this year,” Pittston Area coach James Woodall said. “We have them our first match. It will be another battle against this year.”
Not wanting to dwell on last season, Woodall explained how hard his grapplers have been working here in 2013. They know what happened to them against the Spartans last season. That mindset has them in the gym early, and staying late.
“I’m excited about how hard these guys are training,” Woodall said. “They are lifing early in the morning. They could end up in a better position than most people expect.”
Along with Lussi, who now wrestles at King’s College, the Patriots will be without Frank Ardo, Brandon Columbo, Sam Falcone, John Minich, Donnie Parham, Brad Rush and Justin Wilk — all of whom helped the Patriots to the WVC tournament title.
“We lost a lot this year,” Woodall said. “But I think they’ve been working and training pretty hard and we should have a good season.”
Lussi wasn’t the only Patriot to claim a district title last year.
Senior Tyler Lutecki, wrestling now at 126 pounds, pinned Chase Gallick of Wallenpaupack in 30 seconds to claim his first title at the 120-pound class.
Also returning to the mat for Pittston Area is sixth-place district finisher Jake Vaxmonsky, who came out of nowhere as a sophomore to win the WVC Tournament title last season at 220 when he defeated GAR’s Zac Faust, 9-8. He will stay at that weight for his senior year.
Senior Kevin Wesolowski is back in the middle of the lineup for the Patriots. At 160 pounds last season, he got some key pins for Pittston Area in the district duals.
Besides filling the spot from Lussi’s departure at 152, the Patriots have open spots at 138 and 145. So one might think Pittston Area’s middleweights could be a weakness.
Ryan Joyce will step in for Lussi at the 152 mark. Last season, Joyce was at 160 pounds. Matt Romanoski will wrestle in that spot this season.
At 138, Pittston will have three grapplers fighting for the starting nod — Tylor Gregorio, Allan Thomas and freshman Hunter Booth. In the 145-pound spot, the Patriots will look to Daniel Gambini, Tyler Koval and Mike Minich.
Minich saw time at 126 and 132 last season. Gambini saw time at 138 and 145 a year ago.
Senior Eric Danaher will switch between 220 and heavyweight with Vaxmonsky. Jonathan Armitage will command the 195-pound slot, while junior Dave DeLeo will be at 132. Matt Romanoski will wrestle at 160 pounds. Dan Mollica and Zack Mekes will have 120 and 113. At 106 pounds, Chris Starinsky will get the nod with senior Anthony Halat backing him up.
“I’m hoping our kids can step up to the plate this year,” Woodall said. “It will be exciting.”
Pittston Area opens up its season against Wyoming Valley West at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Pittston Area High School.