2011-12 MOUNTAIN CAT WRESTLING SEASON PREVIEW
2011-12 looks to be another good one for Head Coach Pat Pecora (36th season) and his Pitt-Johnstown Mountain Cat wrestlers. Seven starters, including a pair of All-Americans and two other national qualifiers, return to lead a talented Mountain Cat squad that tied for 10th-place at the 2011 National Tournament to record the program’s 28th Top-20 national finish.
Pitt-Johnstown, ranked eighth in the 2010-11 NCAA Division II National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Preseason Poll, will be led by All-Americans Ryan Link (133 lbs.) (Cresson, Pa.), and Jack Bachman (141 lbs.) (Greensburg, Pa.), and national qualifiers Nathan Link (149 lbs.) (Cresson, Pa.) and Zach Lundgren (157 lbs.) (DuBois, Pa.). In addition, Dave Fogle (125 lbs.) (Summerhill, Pa.), Gary Lantz (165 lbs.) (Delta, Pa.), and Jon Moore (197 lbs.) (Leechburg, Pa.) all return to the starting line-up.
Despite all of the returning talent, Coach Pecora must fill some spots, including one left at heavyweight with the graduation of two-time All-American and four-time national qualifier Chris Dempsey (Sewickley, Pa.). Pitt-Johnstown must also replace 2011 national qualifiers Steve Makin (174 lbs.) (Portage, Pa.) and A.J. Brentzel (184 lbs.) (Irwin, Pa.).
The following is a tentative weight-by-weight synopsis of the 2011-12 Pitt-Johnstown Mountain Cat wrestling team.
125-lb. Weight Class
After earning the starting job as a red-shirt freshman, Fogle returns to the Mountain Cat starting line-up looking to take the next step in his wrestling career. Fogle, who wrestled at the Super Region I Tournament but did not place, finished with an 18-11 overall record and an 11-6 duel meet mark. Fogle also finished second at the season-opening Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Freshmen in this weight class include: three-time PIAA AA State place-winner and a two-time PA State Runner-up Evan Link (Cresson, Pa.), Felipe Arias (Sinking Spring, Pa.), and Cary Lydic (Greensburg, Pa.).
133-lb. Weight Class
Ryan Link qualified for the national tournament at 125 lbs. as a red-shirt freshman in 2010, before moving to 133 lbs. in 2010-11 where he joined the ranks of the All-Americans with a fourth-place national finish. Link’s 29-4 overall record tied for the team lead in victories. He recorded a perfect 12-0 duel meet season on his way to a runner-up finish at the Super Region 1 Tournament. Link captured the championship at the Wilkes Open and placed third at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Junior Doug Maiorana (Lewisburg, Pa.) should provide a solid back-up at 133 lbs. after posting an 8-5 overall record and a 3-1 mark in duel meets. Maiorana placed sixth at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Sophomore Tyler Chesney (Roaring Spring, Pa.) is expected to see action in this weight class. Freshmen in this weight class are Craig Dawson (Penn Hills, Pa.), Gio Giorgio (West Lawn, Pa.), and Vitaliy Ivaschenko (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
141-lb. Weight Class
Bachman battled back from an early season injury to split time with Dave Cawley (Pittsburgh, Pa.) following the holiday break, before claiming the spot just prior to the Super Region I Tournament. Bachman took full advantage of his opportunity and won the regional championship on his way to becoming an All-American with an eighth-place finish at the national tournament. Bachman posted a 15-6 overall record and 5-1 duel meet record. Nick Katich (Louisville, OH) will make his Mountain Cat debut after taking a red-shirt in 2010-2011.
149-lb. Weight Class
Nathan Link (Cresson, Pa.) returns for his senior season and one last opportunity to become an All-American after reaching the national tournament but not placing a year ago. Link finish 29-12 overall and 12-5 in duel meets on his way to a third-place finish at the Super Region I Tournament and a trip to nationals. His 29 victories were tied for the team lead with his brother Ryan, and Dempsey. Link also placed fourth at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. A freshman in this weight class is 2011 Maryland State fourth-place finisher Jimmy Peacock (Galena, MD).
157-lb. Weight Class
A battle for the starting spot in this weight class is expected between junior Myers Miller (Bolivar, Pa.) and sophomore Cawley. Miller looks to bounce back from and injury-plagued 2010-11 season. Despite the injuries, Miller was 5-4 overall and 3-1 in duel meets. Cawley, who will make the jump from 141 lbs. to 157 lbs. this year, finished his red-shirt freshman season with a 16-6 overall record and 8-3 in duel meet. Cawley placed fifth at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open and took second at the Wilkes Open. Keith Ryan (Shirleysburg, Pa.) will push Lundgren for mat time after winning the championship at the Wilkes Open and providing the Mountain Cats with a very solid reserve for dual meets. Chad Miller (Johnstown, Pa.) will also compete for time on the mat this year. Joel Paolo (Weirton, WV) will make his Mountain Cat debut after red-shirting in 2010-2011. A freshman in this weight class is 2011 eighth-place PIAA AA State finisher Corey Aungst (Claysburg, Pa.).
165-lb. Weight Class
Lundgren dropped to 157 lbs. after starting the 2010-11 season at 165 lbs. However, this year he returns to the 165-lb. weight class. Lundgren placed third at the Super Region I Tournament to secure his first national tournament berth. He finished his junior season 23-8 overall and 9-1 in duel meets. Lundgren also finished fourth at both the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open and the Wilkes Open. Junior Kevin Ryan (Shirleysburg, Pa.) and red-shirt freshman Justin Harold (Leechburg, Pa.) will push Lundgren throughout the 2011-12 season. Freshmen in this weight class include 2011 PIAA State Qualifiers Dylan Killian (Annville, Pa.) and Damian Lascoli (Hollidaysburg, Pa.).
174-lb. Weight Class
With Lundgren moving up to 165 lbs., Gary Lantz (Delta, Pa.) will jump from 165 lbs. to 174 lbs. Lantz claimed the starting position at 165 lbs. a year ago and posted a 15-9 overall and 7-4 mark in duel meets. Lantz began the season by placing second at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Coach Pecora must fill a hole in this weight class after the graduation of Makin, a 2011 national qualifier. Sophomore Logan Shirey (Fairmont City, Pa.) looks to be the front-runner to gain the starting role after serving in a back-up capacity in 2010-2011. In spot duty as a red-shirt freshman last year, Shirey was 3-2 with a 1-1 mark in dual meets. In addition, Kevin Ryan could move up from 165 lbs. and compete for mat time. A newcomer is Johnny Walylko (Boswell, Pa.). Freshmen in this weight class include 2011 PIAA AA State Champion Travis McKillop (Lower Burrell, Pa.) and 2011 PIAA AA State Qualifier Brian Gibbons (Buffalo Mills, Pa.) and Christian Bosco (Jeannette, Pa.).
184-lb. Weight Class
The 184-lb. weight class will also have a new look this season. After losing Brentzel, another 2011 national qualifier, to graduation, Moore or sophomore Petros Georgilas (McKees Rocks, Pa.) are expected to compete for the starting duties. Moore was the starter at 197 lbs. for the Mountain Cats in 2010-11, but could go down a weight class this year. Moore, a senior who wrestled at the Super Region I Tournament, but did not place, wrapped-up his junior season 12-13 overall and 5-7 in dual meets. Moore also placed fourth at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. Georgilas opened eyes after posting a 6-2 overall record and a perfect 5-0 record in duel meets as a red-shirt freshmen a year ago. Georgilas also finished fifth at the Washington & Jefferson Collegiate Open. A newcomer in Sean O’Connell (Farmington, CT) will compete with Moore and Georgilas for the starting position. O’Connell transferred to Pitt-Johnstown prior to the season after wrestling at Super Region I rival Anderson (S.C.) University last year. A freshman at this weight class is 2011 PIAA AAA State Qualifier Nikos Garafola (Greensburg, Pa.).
197-lb. Weight Class
Transfer student-student-athlete Zak Newton (Cresson, Pa.) looks to be the front-runner to claim the starting job for Coach Pecora at 197 lbs. Newton transferred to Pitt-Johnstown after playing football at St. Francis University as a freshman in 2010-11. Newton is a former PIAA AA State place winner who finished fifth at the state tournament in 2010. However, don’t count out sophomore Josh McDannell (Alum Bank, Pa.). McDannell, a three time PIAA AA State qualifier and PA State runner-up in 2009, will make his Mountain Cat debut after taking a red-shirt in 2010-2011. A freshman in this weight class is 2011 PIAA AA seventh-place finisher David Kephart (Portage, Pa.).
Coach Pecora and the Mountain Cats must replace an anchor of their line-up with the graduation of four-time national qualifier and two-time All-American Dempsey. Sophomore Josh Krupa (Bedford, Pa.) will look to fill the shoes after spot duty last year. Zach Baker (Jeannette, Pa.) will make his Mountain Cat debut after red-shirting in 2010-2011, while McDannell could also fill in if it is necessary.
After battling to a 10th-place national finish with a very young team in 2010-11, a more experience Pitt-Johnstown squad returns this year. Some holes need to be filled, but with seven starters, including two All-Americans and two other national qualifiers back in the starting line-up, the 2011-12 version of the Mountain Cats should be in the running for a 21st regional title and the programs 29th NCAA Division II Top-20 finish.