2008-09 WRESTLING SEASON PREVIEW
Pat Pecora (33rd season) has faced challenges in his more than three decades at the helm of the Mountain Cat wrestling program. The 2008-09 season also will present adversity. In July, Coach Pecora was named Pitt Johnstown Athletic Director on top of his coaching duties. Year in and year out, the Mountain Cats tackle challenges head on, and this season will be no different. Pitt Johnstown returns a wealth of talent, including two All-Americans, two other National Qualifiers and plenty of other experience.
Assistant coach Jody Strittmatter (5th season) will increase his responsibilities and help ease the burden on Coach Pecora.
Despite having to replace five All-Americans, including 2008 National Champion Albert Miles (Canonsburg, Pa.), two-time National runner-up Mike Corcetti (Export, Pa.), three-time All-American Brandon Reasy (New Enterprise, Pa.), Derrek Bosso (Pequea, Pa.) and Zach Majocha (Upper Burrell, Pa.), the Mountain Cats return loads of talent. All-Americans Shane Valko (Windber, Pa.) and Kyle Keane (Bradford, Pa.) are back after placing fourth at the National Tournament in 2008, while National Qualifiers Patrick Walsh (Leesport, Pa.) and Chris Dempsey (Sewickley, Pa.) also return. Plus, four other weight classes will boast wrestlers with plenty of starting experience off of a team that placed fourth at last season’s National Tournament.
2008-09 Weight-By-Weight Synopsis
125-lb. Weight Class
Senior Scott Morgan (North Huntingdon, Pa.) is slated to take over the starting job at 125 lbs. after 2007 All-American Derrek Bosso (Pequea, Pa.) graduated. Morgan has seen plenty of action as a spot starter throughout his career. In 2007-08, Morgan was 14-10 overall and 4-2 in dual meets. He also earned a fourth-place finish at the 2007 Wilkes Open. Making his Pitt Johnstown debut will be red-shirt freshman Paul Myers (Cresson, Pa.), a 2007 PA AA State Qualifier. Newcomers in this weight class include: Jimmy Airey (Point Pleasant, N.J.), Matt Ofsanko (Hollsopple, Pa.), Mike Spisak (Leechburg, Pa.) and PA State Qualifiers Dan and Doug Maiorano (Lewisburg, Pa.).
133-lb. Weight Class
Shane Valko became an All-American with a fourth place finish at 141 lbs. at last year’s National Tournament, but will drop to 133 lbs. for his junior season and replace three-time All-American Brandon Reasy, who graduated. Valko was 28-14 overall and 13-9 in dual meets in 2007-08 on his way to placing fourth at the East Regional Tournament and earning his second-straight trip to nationals. Valko, who tied for the team lead with 10 falls, also won the title at the 2007 Wilkes Open and finished second at the Washington & Jefferson CollegiateOpen. Brock Leitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) and Matt Scherich (West Finley, Pa.) will make their collegiate debuts after red-shirting in 2007-08. Scherich placed fourth at the PA AAA Tournament, and Leitzel placed eighth at the PA AA Tournament in 2007. Freshmen in this weight class include: 2008 PA AA State fifth-place finisher Glenn Winslow (Patton, Pa.), 2008 PA AA State sixth-place finisher Ryan Link (Cresson, Pa.) and Mike Spisak (Leechburg, Pa.).
141-lb. Weight Class
With Valko dropping to 133 lbs., the starting spot 141-lb. weight class will be up for grabs. Junior Adam Whetstone (Claysburg, Pa.) is expected to drop from 149 lbs. and be the front-runner for the starting job. Whetstone started much of the 2007-08 season at 149 lbs. and posted a 16-8 overall record and a 10-7 dual meet record. Whetstone was also the runner-up at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Red-shirt freshman Nathan Link (Cresson, Pa.) also will look for mat time this season. Link was a PA State runner-up in 2008. Freshmen in this weight class include: 2008 PA AAA State Qualifier Jared Dolde (Connellsville, Pa.), 2008 PA AA State eighth-place finisher Zachary Wolford (Hanover, Pa.), PA State Qualifier Jake Shirk (Bellefonte, Pa.) and Glen Winslow.
149-lb. Weight Class
The 149-lb. weight class also has some question marks entering the season. Ryan McIntyre (Claysburg, Pa.) is expected to win the starting job. McIntyre, a junior who shared the starting duties with Whetstone and wrestled in the East Regional Tournament, finished with a 9-7 overall record and a 2-4 dual-meet record. McIntyre also won the championship at the Washington & Jefferson Open. Red-shirt freshman and former PA AA State Champion Nikko Leitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) should to push McIntyre for the starting duties. A freshman in this weight class is Justin Freidhof (Irwin, Pa.). Jared Dolde, Nathan Link and Zachary Wolford also can wrestle at 149 lbs. if they don’t wrestle at 141 lbs.
157-lb. Weight Class
Mazen Kholi (Allentown, Pa.) returns for his senior season and one more opportunity to join the ranks of Pitt Johnstown All-Americans. After winning the starting job midway through last season, Kholi fell just short of a trip to the National Tournament with a sixth-place finish at the East Regional Tournament. Kholi had an 8-16 overall record and a 5-12 dual-meet record. Red-shirt freshman Matt Moore (Blairsville, Pa.) could wrestle at 157 if he is not at 165 lbs. A freshman in this weight class is Jordan Easter (Erie, Pa.), a PA AAA State Qualifier.
165-lb. Weight Class
Kyle Keane (Bradford, Pa.) burst onto the national wrestling scene as a sophomore in 2007-08 and battled his way to a fourth place finish at the National Tournament. Keane returns to the starting lineup after posting 38-6 overall record and a team-best 19-2 dual-meet record. His 20 wins by decision and 10 by major decisions also led the Mountain Cats. Keane won the East Regional Championship and placed second at both the Ashland-Harris Auto Center Open and the Wilkes Open. Junior Nick Fastuca (South Park, Pa.) and red-shirt freshmen Matt Moore (Blairsville, Pa.) and Phil Slaugh (Hanover, Pa.) will try to earn time on the mat as spot starters. Moore won the PA AA State Championship in 2008, while Slaugh was a PA State Qualifier. Freshmen in this weight class include: Kevin Ryan (Shirleysburg, Pa.), a PA AA State fifth place finisher, and his brother Keith Ryan (Shirleysburg, Pa.).
174-lb. Weight Class
Coach Pecora must replace 2008 National Champion Albert Miles (Canonsburg, Pa.), who graduated last year. Red-shirt freshman Zach Lundgren (Dubois, Pa.) and sophomore Steve Makin (Portage, Pa.) will be battling for the starting job. Lundgren was 6-3 wrestling open tournaments as a true freshman, while Makin wrapped-up the 2007-08 season with a 6-3 mark. Freshmen in this weight class are 2007 PA AA State Qualifier Will Harris (Johnstown, Pa.) and PA AA State Qualifier Myers Miller (Bolivar, Pa.). Keith and Kevin Ryan can wrestle at 174 lbs. if they don’t wrestle at 165 lbs.
184-lb. Weight Class
Just like the 174-lb. weight class, Coach Pecora must replace an anchor in the lineup, due to the graduation of four-time All-American and two-time National runner-up Mike Corcetti (Export, Pa.). Red-shirt freshmen Jon Moore (Leechburg, Pa.) and Damian Majocha (Upper Burrell, Pa.) are expected to compete for the starting duties. Moore and Majocha will make their debuts after red-shirting as true freshmen a year ago. Moore, who is also a pitcher for the Mountain Cat baseball team, is a PA AAA sixth place finisher, while Majocha was a PA AA State Qualifier.
197-lb. Weight Class
2008 National Qualifier Patrick Walsh (Leesport, Pa.) returns to Coach Pecora’s starting lineup after posting a 37-14 overall record and an 18-4 dual-meet record. Walsh, the 2008 East Region runner-up, set the school record for wins in a regular season at 197 lbs. with 32 and the single-season record with 37. He placed third at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open and Wilkes Open and fourth at the East Stroudsburg University Open. Red-shirt freshman and former PA State Qualifiers Garrett Gibson (Irwin, Pa.) and Jason Kylor (Huntingdon, Pa.) will make their Mountain Cat debuts. Freshmen in this weight class are PA AA State Qualifier Ryan Krouse (Johnstown, Pa.) and Ethan Wissler (Holtwood, Pa.).
2007 National Qualifier Chris Dempsey (Sewickley, Pa.) is expected to return to the starting lineup after red-shirting in 2007-08. Dempsey joined the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2006-07 and placed second at the East Regional Tournament to advance to the National Tournament. Dempsey was 23-14 overall and 10-6 in dual meets. His 17 falls led the team and were two shy of Carlton Haselrig’s single-season heavyweight record of 19 set in 1986-87. Ryan Krouse can also wrestle at heavyweight if he doesn't wrestle at 197 lbs.
If the 2008-09 season is anything like the 2007-08 season, Coach Pecora, Coach Strittmatter and the Mountain Cats will prove once again that challenges can be overcome. But that’s nothing new to this program as it prepares to compete for its 21st East Regional Tournament championship and a shot at earning its third NCAA Division II National title.