2009-10 WRESTLING SEASON PREVIEW
With a pair of All-Americans and four other national qualifiers returning from last year’s team that notched the program’s 26th Top-20 finish under Head Coach Pat Pecora (34th season), the Mountain Cats, ranked #10 in NWCA Preseason Division II Poll and tied for the top-spot in the East Region preseason rankings, could be poised to make a run at a third NCAA Division II National Championship in 2009-10.
Two-time All-American and 2009 National Runner-up Shane Valko (133 lbs.) (Windber, Pa.) and 2009 Fifth-Place finisher Adam Whetstone (141 lbs.) (Claysburg, Pa.) both return to the Mountain Cat line-up. Coach Pecora will also welcome back 2008 All-American and 2009 National Qualifier Kyle Keane (165 lbs.) (Bradford, Pa.), as well a two-time National Qualifiers Patrick Walsh (197 lbs.) (Leesport, Pa.) and Chris Dempsey (HWT.) (Sewickley, Pa.). Senior Ryan McIntyre (149 lbs.) (Claysburg, Pa.) returns to round out the group of returning national qualifiers expected to lead the Mountain Cats in 2009-10.
The following is a tentative weight-by-weight synopsis of the 2009-10 Pitt-Johnstown Mountain Cat wrestling team.
125-lb. Weight Class
With the graduation of last year’s starter Scott Morgan (North Huntingdon, Pa.), a three-way battle to take over the starting job between sophomores Paul Myers (Cresson, Pa.) and Matt Scherich (West Finley, Pa.) and red-shirt freshman Ryan Link (Cresson, Pa.) is expected. Myers posted a 6-4 overall record and a 1-0 dual meet record a year ago, while Scherich, a former PIAA State Place winner, was 4-6 overall and 2-1 in dual meets wrestling at 133 lbs. Link, who placed sixth at the PIAA State Tournament as a senior, will make his collegiate debut and compete for the starting duties as a red-shirt freshman. 2008 PIAA State Place winner Glen Winslow (Patton, Pa.) and Doug Maiorana (Lewisburg, Pa.) will also look for mat time as red-shirt freshmen. Freshmen in this weight class include: four-time PIAA AA State Place winner David Fogle (Summerhill, Pa.), 2009 AAA Regional Qualifier David Baker (Coraopolis, Pa.) and three-time North Carolina State Runner-up Ian Coggin (Johnstown, Pa.).
133-lb. Weight Class
Shane Valko returns for his senior season and one more shot at becoming Pitt-Johnstown’s 10th individual national champion. Valko, the East Region Tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler in 2009, was the national runner-up after suffering a double overtime ride-out loss in the championship bout at 133 lbs. Valko, who suffered his only loss of the season in the title bout, finished with a 28-1 overall record and a 14-0 mark in dual meets. Valko led the Mountain Cats with 18 falls. He was also named the Outstanding Wrestler at the season-opening Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Scherich, Ryan Link and Winslow could also backup Valko at 133 lbs. when they are not wrestling at 125 lbs. Dan Maiorana (Lewisburg, Pa.) will make his Pitt-Johnstown debut after red-shirting as a freshman last year. Freshmen in this weight class include: 2009 PIAA AA State Third-Place finisher Tyler Chesney (Roaring Spring, Pa.), AA Regional Qualifier Kyle Pucci (Friedens, Pa.) and 2009 PIAA AA State Fourth-Place finisher Mitch Spencer (Avella, Pa.).
141-lb. Weight Class
Coach Pecora welcomes back senior and 2009 All-American Adam Whetstone to the starting lineup. Whetstone, who dropped from 149 lbs. to 141 lbs. for the 2008-09 season, was the East Regional Tournament runner-up on his way to placing fifth at the National Tournament. He also won the title at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open and was the runner-up at the Wilkes Open. Whetstone ended his junior season with a 23-14 overall record and a 9-8 dual meet record. Pushing Whetstone for mat time will be sophomore Nathan Link (Cresson, Pa.), who earned spot starting time at 141 lbs. and 149 lbs. a year ago. Link wrapped up the 2008-09 season with 3-6 overall record and a 2-3 dual meet mark. Junior Jake Shirk (Julian, Pa.), a former PIAA AAA State Qualifier, could also compete for some time on the mat. Freshmen in this weight class include: PIAA AA State Fourth-Place finisher Mitch Spencer (Avella, Pa.), PIAA AAA fifth-place finisher David Cawley (Pittsburgh, Pa.), AAA Regional Qualifier Matt Rust (Quakertown, Pa.) and Pucci if he does not wrestle at 133 lbs.
149-lb. Weight Class
Senior National Qualifier Ryan McIntyre returns for one more chance to become an All-American, but he could be pushed by former PIAA AAA State Champion Donnie Ament (Acme, Pa.), who transferred to Pitt-Johnstown from NCAA Division I Lock Haven University for the 2009-10 season. McIntyre placed third at the East Regional Tournament to secure his first trip to the National Tournament last year. McIntyre posted a 16-13 overall record and a 6-7 dual meet record. Ament, a former three-time PIAA AA State place winner, including winning the State Championship in 2005, joins the Mountain Cats after sitting out the previous season. Ament, who may also see time at 141 lbs. this year, was 13-15 overall and placed fourth at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships and fifth at the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Championships in 2006-07. Two- year letterman Dan Simon (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and 2009 letterman Nathan Link could also battle for mat time in this weight class. Freshmen in this weight class include: 2009 PIAA AAA State Runner-up Jack Bachman (Greensburg, Pa.), two-time AA State Qualifier Chad Miller (Johnstown, Pa.) and Cawley and Rust if they are not wrestling at 141 lbs.
157-lb. Weight Class
After a successful red-shirt freshman season filling in at 165 lbs. and 174 lbs., sophomore Zach Lundgren (Dubois, Pa.) is expected to drop to 157 lbs. and take over the starting job left open by the graduation of last year’s starter Mazen Kholi (Allentown, Pa.). Lundgren, a former three-time PIAA AAA State Qualifier, including an eighth-place finish in 2007, is coming off of a solid 11-7 overall record and a perfect 7-0 mark in dual meets wrestling at 165 lbs. He also placed sixth at the East Regional Tournament replacing the injured Steve Makin (Portage, Pa.) at 174 lbs. Myers Miller (Bolivar, Pa.), a 2008 PIAA AA State Qualifier, Keith and Kevin Ryan (Shirleysburg, Pa.) and Zach Wolford (Hanover, Pa.) will be making their Mountain Cat debuts after red-shirting last year. Freshmen in this weight class include: PA AAA Regional Qualifier Jim Giampa (West Mifflin, Pa.) and 2009 AA Runner-up Joe Harper (Duncannon, Pa.).
165-lb. Weight Class
2008 All-American and 2009 National Qualifier Kyle Keane (Bradford, Pa.) returns for his senior season and third year as a starter at 165 lbs. Keane, who placed fourth at the 2008 National Tournament, was 19-11 overall and 5-4 in dual meets on his way to a runner-up finisher in the East Regional Tournament to advance to his second straight Division II National Tournament in 2008-09. Keane also placed fourth at both the Cleveland State University and Wilkes Open Tournaments. If necessary, Lundgren, Miller and the Ryan twins could step in at 165 lbs. Gary Lantz (Delta, Pa.), a 2008 PIAA AAA State Qualifier, transferred to Pitt-Johnstown and could also push for mat time. Freshmen in this weight class include: 2009 PIAA AAA State Qualifier Nik Zimmerman (Altoona, Pa.) and Harper if he does not wrestle at 157 lbs.
174-lb. Weight Class
Junior Steve Makin is back in the starting lineup after a late season injury cost him the chance to wrestle in the East Regional Tournament for an opportunity to go to Nationals. Prior to the injury, Makin, who climbed to the top spot in the East Region rankings, was 17-10 overall and 9-5 in dual meets. He also earned a third-place finish at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. A freshman in this weight class is 2009 PIAA AA Fourth-Place finisher Logan Shirey (Fairmont City, Pa.).
184-lb. Weight Class
Patrick Walsh will drop a weight class to 184 lbs. after qualifying for the National Tournament the last two years at 197 lbs. Walsh, who holds the Mountain Cat record at 197 lbs. for wins in a regular season (32) and wins in a season (36), finished 2008-09 in a three-way tie with Valko and Dempsey for team-high in victories with 28. Walsh was 28-10 overall and 12-5 in dual meets en route to a third-place finish at the East Regional Tournament and a second consecutive trip to the National Tournament. He also won the title at the Wilkes Open, placed third at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open and fourth at the Penn State Open. Sophomore Damian Majocha (Upper Burrell, Pa.), who shared starting duties in this weight class a year ago, could battle Walsh for mat time. Majocha posted a 4-7 overall record and an 0-2 mark in dual meets prior to a season-ending injury. Majocha also placed fourth at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Former PIAA AA State Qualifier Will Harris (Johnstown, Pa.) is expected to jump from 174 lbs. to 184 lbs. after red-shirting as a freshman last year. Harris should push Walsh for time on the mat and provide added depth in this weight class. A freshman in this weight class is 2009 PIAA AA Eighth-Place finisher Tim DeFances (Cochranton, Pa.).
197-lb. Weight Class
University of Pittsburgh transfer and former PIAA AAA State Runner-up A.J. Brentzel (Irwin, Pa.) looks to be the front runner for the starting position at 197 lbs. Along with wrestling at 184 lbs., Majocha and Harris could also get mat time in this weight class. Freshmen in this weight class include: 2009 PIAA AAA Eighth-Place finisher Petros Georgilas (McKees Rocks, Pa.) and DeFrances if he is not wrestling at 184 lbs.
Chris Dempsey, who earned a spot in the National Tournament in 2007, came off of a red-shirt in 2007-08 and advanced to Nationals by placing third at the East Regional Tournament in his sophomore season. Demspsey tied for the team lead in wins with a 28-12 overall record and was 13-4 in dual meets. His 14 wins by decision tied Makin for the team lead, while his 12 falls were second behind Valko’s 18. Dempsey also placed third at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open and fourth at the Wilkes Open. A freshman in this weight class is 2009 PIAA AA Sixth-Place finisher Josh Krupa (Bedford, Pa.).
With the experience gained by a very young Mountain Cat squad in 2008-09, this year should be a very exciting one, as Pitt-Johnstown looks to make a run at a third NCAA Division II National Championship.