KINGSTON – Wyoming Seminary has long been one of the top wrestling high schools in the country, if not the best overall.
Another example of the exceptional wrestling skills from the school will be on display in another country while representing Team USA.
Beau Bartlett, Ashlynn Ortega and Vayle rae-Baker were selected to represent the country in the Pan-Am Games. Bartlett, a sophomore who resides in Wilkes-Barre, will be participating in the Cadet Pan-Am Tournament in Guatemala May 25-27. Ortega, a senior, and rae-Baker, a junior from Benton, will be heading to Brazil in August to participate in the Junior Pan-Am Games and wrestle for Team USA girls.
Sem head wrestling coach Scott Green said that three student-athletes getting to travel internationally is just an extension of the entire school’s mission of having kids travel abroad whether it be for a conference, an exchange program or for a sport.
“I think it really fits into our mission, which is provide kids an opportunity to study internationally. To understand their role as an American teenager in an international world that we’re becoming in a global setting,” he said. “And obviously, we have a flourishing international community among our student body. So sports is a nice extension of that. And the tradition we have of getting guys, and now girls, on world teams really fits into the Sem’s community as a whole.”
For Bartlett, finally qualifying for such an event has been a longtime coming. He’s been in qualifiers previously, but has always fallen short. He’s picked up a pair of National Prep Championships for the Blue Knights and has already garnered the 100-win milestone for his school. Then at the qualifier in East Stroudsburg last month, he finally broke through to get the nod for the prestigious Pan-Am Games.
He will be joining a long list of former Wyoming Seminary wrestlers who have wrestled in another country representing Team USA.
“I know the opportunity is there just like it has been for previous wrestlers who have gone to Sem,” Bartlett said. “I am excited to get that opportunity and hope I can make the best of it.”
It’s going to be a new experience for Bartlett to be stepping on a mat in this type of environment, but wrestling on a national stage week-in and week-out for the Blue Knights, has him prepared for what’s to come.
“I have seen lots of great competition so that pretty much eliminates any fear that I might have,” he said. “I feel pretty prepared for anything that might come.”
While Bartlett is making his Team USA debut, Ortega and rae-Baker happened to meet three years ago while wrestling for Team USA in Bosnia and being roommates back then.
Since then, they have become like sisters, and when the Sem girls program started at the beginning of this school year, there was excitement that both were on the same high school team.
Now, having the opportunity to wrestle together again on a grand stage and as part of the same school, it’s even more special.
“Vayle is close to my family. My grandparents travel with me out to worlds and when I told them she was here (at Sem) they automatically said hello to her and came out and visited,” Ortega said. “Her dad has been very supportive of the same team and we’ve been very close.”
The Sem girls season just wrapped up last week with rae-Baker and Ortega both claiming second at the USA Wrestling Women’s Nationals Tournament. rae-Baker began her wrestling for the very successful Benton/Northwest Area program in the PIAA and going up against boys in most of her matches. She said that going up against girls this season was nothing different than wrestling boys.
“I think wrestling is wrestling whether wrestling a guy or you’re wrestling a girl in the practice room or in competition,” rae-Baker said. “So I don’t think it’s that much different. There’s different attributes to different athletes and I think that’s the same for guys and girls.”
With international experience already under their belts, Ortega and rae-Baker are confident heading into their event in a few months.
“Every time you get that opportunity, it’s like getting Christmas all over again,” rae-Baker said.
“I’m looking forward to a gold medal,” Ortega said. “That’s kinda why I’m going out there.”
Davis lauded again
Jack Davis certainly left his mark on the Wyoming Seminary wrestling program.
The Hanover Township native wrestled varsity for the Blue Knights for three years picking up 107 wins, including 56 falls to go with a pair of national championships.
After claiming his second national title, he represented Team Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic against Team USA All-Stars. Following that, he was recently named to the 2018 Wrestling USA Scholastic All-American Team.
Just a few days ago, Davis, who will wrestle at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall, was lauded as the best all-around athlete at Wyoming Seminary for not only his wrestling accolades, but for also being a part of the Blue Knights’ boys soccer team that qualified for the PIAA Championships three times in his four years.
All of that is mighty impressive for the young man, who grew up in the Wyoming Valley. And he may have set the stage for more locals to go to Sem and excel, like underclassmen Jake Stefanowicz and Mike Doggett, who are both from the Back Mountain.
“Jack Davis proved that you didn’t have to come here and be a boarder to be one of the best wrestlers in the country,” Green said. “I think that he has showed the Jake Stefanowiczes and the Mike Doggetts of the world that it doesn’t have to be that you’re recruited from somewhere and come on campus and be great. You can do it with X-Calibur and you can do it as a local kid.
“He’s left a mark on Sem for more than just a wrestling standpoint but as a solid contributor to the entire community.”