Year in and year out, Head Coach Pat Pecora’s (29th season) Pitt Johnstown Mountain Cat wrestling program combines a mix of experience with some very talented newcomers that blend together to become one of the top teams in the nation every season. The 2004-05 season will be no exception. Coach Pecora welcomes back four All-Americans and three other National Qualifiers to a line-up that placed fifth in NCAA Division II a year ago. However, the Mountain Cats must replace 2004 National Runner-up John Burda (174 lbs.) (Penn Run, Pa.), two-time All-American Randy Pyle (184 lbs.) (Somerset, Pa.) and All-American Jason Nestor (141 lbs.) (Transfer, Pa.). Despite the loss of a few key ingredients, Pitt Johnstown has plenty of retuning talent and is prepared to carry on the proud tradition and earn another top-ten finish at the upcoming NCAA National Tournament.
The following is a tentative weight-by-weight synopsis of the 2004-05 Pitt Johnstown Mountain Cat wrestling team. Some wrestlers could move up a weight class or drop a weight class depending what is needed to solidify the line-up.
125-lb. Weight Class
Junior Ryon Mazzocco (Cresson, Pa.) is scheduled to return to this weight class after earning a trip to the 2004 NCAA Tournament at 133 lbs. Mazzocco, a two-time National Qualifier, combined to post a 17-18 overall record and a 7-12 dual meet record while wrestling half of the season at 125 lbs. and the other half at 133 lbs. Mazzocco also placed third at the East Regional Tournament and won the championship at last year’s Slippery Rock Open. If Mazzocco remains at 133 lbs., junior Chris Yentzer (Shermans Dale, Pa.), a starter most of the 2003-04 season, will battle for the starting spot. Yentzer recorded a 4-8 overall record (3-6 dual meet record) and placed fifth at the East Regional Tournament after taking over the starting job when Mazzocco moved up a weight class. Also battling for action at 125 lbs. are red-shirt freshmen Tom Brambley (Breezewood, Pa.) and Brandon Reasy (New Enterprise, Pa.). Reasy is a three-time PA State Place winner, while Brambley is a three-time State Qualifier who placed eighth in 2004. Freshmen in this weight class include 2004 PA State Qualifiers Spencer Kahrig (Washington, Pa.) and Scott Morgan (North Huntingdon, Pa.). Kharig finished his senior season with a 36-6 record, while Morgan was 34-3.
133-lb. Weight Class
Mazzocco would have the edge at earning the starting spot in this weight class if he does not return to 125 lbs. However if Mazzocco does drop a weight class, Joe Makara (Lower Burrell, Pa.) could make his collegiate debut as a starter for Coach Pecora as a red-shirt freshman. Makara, a two-time PA State Champion from Burrell High School, finished his career with a 141-19 overall record. In addition, Makara finished as a four-time Section Champion, a four-time Regional champion and a four-time WPIAL champion. Red-shirt freshman and former three-time PA State Qualifier Derrek Bosso (Pequea, Pa.) will compete for mat-time at 133 lbs. A freshman in this weight class is T.J. Flegler (Nazareth, Pa.)
141 lb. Weight Class
With the departure of All-American Jason Nestor (Transfer, Pa.) due to graduation, junior All-American Thad Benton (Claysburg, Pa.) is scheduled to move from 133 lbs. to 141 lbs. However, junior two-time PA State Place winner Jay Matteo (New Castle, Pa.) will compete with Benton for the starting job at this weight class. Benton, who placed fifth at the 2003 NCAA National Tournament, was ranked second in the nation at 133 lbs. before nagging injuries shortened his season. Prior to the injuries, Benton was 16-2 overall and 11-2 in dual meets. He also won the championship at the 2003 West Virginia Open. Matteo recorded at 12-5 overall record and a 2-1 dual meet record a year ago. Junior Tom Prato (Indiana, Pa.) and red-shirt freshman Eric Svec (Greensburg, Pa.) are also in the mix at 141 lbs. Prato, a former PA State Qualifier at Indiana High School, sat out last season, while Svec, a Regional Qualifier in high school, will make his collegiate debut this season.
149 lb. Weight Class
Senior Ryan Ickes (Claysburg, Pa.) returns to the Mountain Cat lineup after a fourth place finish at the 2004 NCAA Division II National Tournament. Ickes, also a First Team NWCA All-Academic Team selection for the second consecutive year, finished with a 26-8 overall record (16-3 dual meet record) and placed third at the East Regional Tournament. Red-shirt freshman Brian Cook (Pittsburgh, Pa.), a two-time WPIAL Qualifier, will make his debut this season. A freshman in this weight class is Mazen Kholi (Allentown, Pa.) Kholi had a 31-15 overall record and placed seventh at the PA State Tournament in 2004
157-lb. Weight Class
Matt Roncolato (Allentown, Pa.) will be back in the starting lineup for his senior season. Roncolato looks to join the All-American ranks after being a National Qualifier as a junior. Roncolato, a First Team NWCA All-Academic Team member in 2004, is a former PA State Champion from Salisbury High School who finished last season with a 21-16 overall record and a 10-10 dual meet record. Roncolato also won the championship at the East Regional Tournament to advance to the National Tournament. Senior Brandon Ickes (Claysburg, Pa.), the twin brother of Ryan Ickes, will join the Pitt Johnstown wrestling team for the first time after earning four letters as the starting second baseman for the Mountain Cat baseball team. Ickes, and red-shirt freshman Dan Burns (Greenville, Pa.) will also compete with Roncolato for the starting spot at 157 lbs. Ickes was a two-time Regional Qualifier, while Burns placed sixth for Reynolds High School at the State Tournament. A freshman in this weight class is Tom DeAntonio (Altoona, Pa.). DeAntonio, a 2004 Regional Qualifier at Altoona Area High School, wrapped up his senior season with a 39-9 record.
165-lb. Weight Class
The 165-lb. weight class could be the most competitive battle for a starting spot when senior All-American Mark Glova (St. Benedict, Pa.) and sophomore Eli Garshnick (Armagh, Pa.) hit the mat. Glova finished his junior season with an eighth place finish in his first trip to the National Tournament He recorded a 23-11 overall record and a 10-5 dual meet record on his way to placing third at the 2004 East Regional Tournament. Glova also placed third at the 2003 Penn State Open and fourth at the 2003 West Virginia Open. Garshnick, a Second Team NWCA as a red-shirt freshman last season, posted a 17-4 record, including an 8-2 mark in dual meets. Garshnick won the championship at the 2003 Slippery Rock Open and was the Runner-up at the 2003 Wilkes Open. Red-shirt freshman Rob Sakmar (Johnstown, Pa.) will also vie for mat time behind Glova and Garshnick. Sakmar placed third at the 2003 PA State Tournament and finished his career at Richland High School with a 115-38 record.
174-lb. Weight Class
Coach Pecora must replace two-time All-American and 2004 National Runner-up John Burda (Penn Run, Pa.) in this weight class. Red-shirt freshman Albert Miles (Canonsburg, Pa.) looks to be in line to take over for Burda. Despite the lack collegiate wrestling experience, Miles is loaded with talent. A four-year letterman at Canon McMillan High School, Miles placed fifth at the 2003 PA State Tournament and finished his senior season with a 38-3 record. Miles also ended his high school career with a 122-28 record. Red-shirt freshmen Gerred Price (Mifflin, Pa.) and Nick Dlugonski (Washington, Pa.) could push Miles for the starting spot. Price, a two-time PA State All-Academic Team selection, had a 39-10 record as a senior and Dlugonski was a Regional Qualifier with a 49-36 career record.
184-lb. Weight Class
Just like the 174-lb. weight class, 184 lbs. will see a new starter this season due to the graduation of two-time All-American Randy Pyle (Somerset, Pa.). Once again, a red-shirt freshman is in line to become the starter. Entering the season, Mike Corcetti (Export, Pa.) is the front-runner to start in this weight class. Corcetti, a third place finisher at the 2003 PA State Tournament, wrapped up his four-year career at Kiski Area High School with a 129-29 record. Corcetti, who led Kiski Area to a Runner-up finish at the 2003 PA State Team Tournament, also placed second at last season’s Edinboro Open wrestling unattached. Sophomore Jason Jones (Irwin, Pa.) will also battle for the starting job if he does not wrestle at 197 lbs. this season. A freshman in this weight class is Nate Cookerly (East Berlin, Pa.). Cookerly was a 2004 PA State Qualifier who posted a 33-10 record as a senior at Bermudian Springs High School.
197-lb. Weight Class
The 197-lb. weight class is full of talent, led by three-time All-American Howard Bell (Irwin, Pa.). Bell enters his senior season with fourth, sixth and eight-place finishes at the NCAA Tournament. As a junior, Bell recorded a 28-10 overall record and a 14-5 dual meet record. His nine falls led the Mountain Cats and his 28 victories were second only to Burda’s 34 wins. Bell placed second at the 2004 East Regional Tournament, won the title at the Wilkes Open and placed third at the Penn State Open a year ago. Sophomore Mike Fowler (Carrolltown, Pa.), a Second Team NWCA All-Academic Team selection, made his college debut last season and had an 11-6 overall record. Fowler, a former PA State Place winner at Cambria Heights High School, also had a fourth-place showing at the Wilkes Open. Jones, who could also wrestle at 184 lbs., will also push for mat time this season. Jones was 4-0 as a red-shirt freshman after being a two-time PA State Qualifier at Penn Trafford High School. A freshman in this weight class is Pat Hellmann (Lancaster, Pa.). Hellmann placed sixth at the 2004 PA State Tournament and had a 35-7 record as a senior at Hempfield High School.
Junior National Qualifier Zach Majocha (Upper Burrell, Pa.) is slated to once again be the starter at heavyweight. Majocha posted a 27-7 overall record and an 18-3 dual meet record on his way to winning the East Regional Championship as a sophomore. Majocha, another former PA State Place winner, also placed fourth at the 2003 West Virginia Open. Pushing Majocha for time on the mat will be talented freshmen Jon Neese (Chambersville, Pa.) and Nick Paluch (Salix, Pa.). Neese was the 2003 PA State Heavyweight champion from Marion Center High School, while Paluch was a PA State Qualifier from Forest Hills High School.
Coach Pecora and his Mountain Cat wrestling squad bring a mix of youth and experience to the 2004-05 season. As always, there is plenty of talent. With the guidance of several returning All-Americans and National Qualifiers for the young wrestlers to follow, this season should develop into a very exciting one for Pitt Johnstown wrestling.