There must be some type of magic potion in the water that District 2 heavyweights have been drinking.
Since 2002, the district has had at least one state medalist in the top weight class in all but one year. The trend started with current Wyoming Valley West coach Drew Feldman taking sixth in 2002.
Starting Thursday, two more 285-pounders will be trying to accomplish that feat when GAR’s Saul Wilkins takes the mat in the Class 2A PIAA Championships and Dallas’ Ryan Monk follows later on in the day in the Class 3A tournament.
“The only thing I can see, especially with a guy like Monk, is he puts in the time in the summer,” Feldman said. “They put in the time. I think that’s why our heavyweights are successful…I think our guys around here, for upperweights put in a year-round effort which is nice.”
While that is the case for Monk, Wilkins is in just his first year wrestling so that analysis doesn’t work with him.
Maybe it’s that they play football and that sport sets up wrestlers for success?
At least the last four state medalists from the district at that weight have all been stellar on the gridiron. Valley West’s Trevin and Tyler Cowman, Abington Heights’ Evan Craig and Coughlin’s Brad Emerick were all standouts on the football field as well as the mat.
Monk and Wilkins are also coming off solid seasons for their respective schools’ football teams.
One of the few times Monk was challenged this season came when he faced Wilkins in the semifinals of January’s Wyoming Valley Conference Tournament. Wilkins pushed Monk to the third period before the Mountaineer star pulled off a pin. That loss also started a stretch for Wilkins where he has won 24 of his next 27 bouts, including a district and Northeast Regional title.
Monk, meanwhile is riding a 33-match winning streak entering states, having last lost to Solanco’s Thomas Haines — a three-time state champion — on Dec. 13. Haines is on the opposite side of the bracket as Monk.
The past state medalists at heavyweight (275 or 285 pounds) from District 2 since 2002 are Lake-Lehman’s Matt Carey (sixth) and Feldman (sixth), Coughlin’s Ryan Kittrick (2003, fifth), Meyers’ Damien Carbone (2004, sixth), Trevin Cowman (2005 fifth, 2006 first), Tyler Cowman (2009 fourth), Craig (2007 eighth, 2008 second, 2009 first, 2010 first), and Emerick (2012 fifth, 2013 fourth).
The only year the district did not leave with a state medal was 2011 and that year, Abington Heights’ Morgan Craig finished just shy, going 1-2.
“I think he does know the history,” Dallas coach Mike Richards said about Monk. “And what helps our district is that a lot of the real good heavyweights we’ve had over the years are still in it. Drew and (Crestwood coach J.J.) Konigus are still here … He’s a student of wrestling. He loves wrestling. He’s a student of anything. When he likes it, he loves it and engulfs it.”
PJW change fits good
For the first time, the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships split, with junior high championships being held last weekend being held at Hempfield High School in Greensburg.
Five junior high wrestlers representing Wyoming Valley Conference schools took home medals, led by Hanover Area’s Jack Davis, who won the 107-pound weight class. Dallas 212-pounder Jerry Ogurkis took second, while Tunkhannock’s Tommy Traver (97 pounds) and Coughlin’s Jacob Cole (147) finished fifth, and Lake-Lehman’s Michael Slivinski was seventh at 187.
Previously, the event was combined with every other age group from 8-and-under up all held at the same venue. This year, it broke apart so it follows the junior high postseason in most areas of the state and hoped to get more interest. The PJW Youth state championships will be held March 21-22 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.
When the state tournament begins Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey, there will be 12 wrestlers in the state looking for another gold medal.
Highlighting those are a pair of Class 3A wrestlers looking for their fourth titles. Kennard-Dale’s Chance Marsteller (170) is attempting to accomplish the feat without a loss in four years. Solanco’s Haines is going for his fourth title, but first at 285. He’s previously accomplished the feat at 220 pounds.
Marsteller opens with Dallas’ Connor Martinez, while Solanco could see Dallas’ Monk in the finals.
One of the many other notables is Franklin Regional 106-pound junior Devin Brown, who will be looking for a 3A title after winning one with Saegertown in 2A last season.
Looking to stay unbeaten
A total of 23 wrestlers in the state are trying to finish their seasons with an unblemished record. At the most, only 16 of them can accomplish the feat because four brackets consist of two unbeatens.
The most wins in the state with no losses belongs to Spence Lee from Franklin Regional. The 113-pounder is 45-0.