WRESTLING PREVIEW: Several Strong Individual Performers Dot Local Lineups Heading Into Season

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — With the District 9 season starting this weekend (Dec. 1-2), it’s time to take a look at where each team stands going into 2023-2024. You won’t find any predictions here – just thumbnail sketches based on, in many instances, the input of coaches, as well as analysis of records from previous seasons.

A few things stand out. Most notably, there are a lot of strong individual wrestlers returning and several teams are going to be very competitive in district competition. On the other hand, there are a more than a few grapplers looking to get varsity experience under their belts and several teams will have difficulty filling line-ups. The influx of new, varsity-level wrestlers is something to celebrate – it’s always good to see more-and-more athletes willing to give the sport a try.

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Hopefully they will inspire others to participate, subsequently reducing the number of small-rostered teams. And just like there are new wrestlers, District 9 has several new head coaches looking to make a positive impact on the student- athletes in their charge.

Ready or not, it’s time to roll out the mats and get settled in to enjoy one of the world’s oldest sports on the local level:

Bradford Owls (AAA)

According to Bradford head coach Stefan Chaussard, the Owls are in a rebuilding phase, with the emphasis on increasing numbers.

That’s not to say that the cupboard his bare, as Chaussard, in his first year at Bradford’s helm, has talent returning. Leading the way is sophomore Jordan Thompson. Last season, Thompson posted a 30-9 record in a campaign that saw him win the 145-pound district title. Chaussard is also looking for results from junior Mitchell Brinsky and sophomore Ryan Galloway. Brinsky was 1-5 at 121 pounds last year, his first time on a varsity mat, while Galloway went 8-16 as a 107-pounder.

Chaussard points to Thomas Langdon, a junior high state qualifier, as somebody on whom to pay attention.

Going into the 2023-2024 season, Chaussard sees his team’s youth and spirt as strengths, but recognizes the key to the season will be getting his grapplers experience.

Chaussard is assisted by coaches Mike Gow, Travis Falkner, Brett Thompson, Mike Corignani, Ryan Mongillo, Noah Christjohn, and Matt Gilligan.

Brockway Rovers (AA)

The word from second-year coach Troy Braddock is that the Brockway practice room is not short on talented and tough wrestlers who all have the same goal – making postseason runs, both individually and as a dual meet team. This attitude extends to the new Rover grapplers transitioning to varsity, who Braddock described as engaged and eager to learn.

Brockway is led by senior Weston Pisarchick, a returning PIAA medalist, having taken third in Hershey a season ago. Pisarchick, a Clarion commit, has a three-year record of 77-9. In 2022-2023 he compiled a record of 31-1 while dropping from 121 to 114 pounds. He’ll enter the postseason looking to capture a fourth district championship.

Weston’s brother, Parker Pisarchick, will also be a big factor in the Rovers’ season. He has 30 wins in each of his first two varsity seasons (62-20), going 32-7 last year at 133 pounds. The junior won districts in 2023 but didn’t advance past regionals. He was a state qualifier as a freshman.

Braddock has another pair of regional qualifiers on his roster, senior Jack Smith and junior Colton Ross.

Smith qualified for regionals the past two seasons. A three-year starter, he has a career mark of 29-25, going 6-10 season ago as he descended from 189 to 172 pounds. Ross was a regional qualifier as a freshman. Now entering his third season, he posted a 21-12 record at 139 pounds last year.

Several other Rovers bear watching according to Braddock – senior Dylan Bash, junior Blake Pisarchick, and sophomores Gage Park and Jon Winning. Bash, entering his third season, is 28-22 overall. Last year he saw limited action, going 3-0. Pisarchick, a student at Dubois Central Catholic (who Brockway co-ops
with), experienced his first varsity season in 2022-2023, posting a 16-17 record, primarily at 152 pounds.

Park was 18-17 as a freshman 107-pounder, while Winnings wrestled at 285 pounds and went 6-9.

Braddock is enthusiastic about a pair of varsity newcomers, senior Matthew Brubaker, who last wrestled in junior high, and freshman Maddox Decker.

Assistant coaches are Bruce Grecco and Jason Bash.

Brookville Raiders (AA)

Despite stiff competition from Clearfield, head coach Dave Klepfer’s Brookville Raiders won their 10th consecutive district AA team dual championship in 2022-2023. Klepfer wants to make it 11 straight this year, focusing on his squad’s steady improvement as it pushes toward another trip to the team tournament in Hershey.

Initially, the Brookville lineup might have to be pieced together, Klepfer noting the Raiders may not reach full strength until late December owing to injuries suffered during the later portion of the football season. His team does have plenty of varsity experience to help it get through the early part of the year, though there will also be a handful of wrestlers cracking the starting line-up for the first time.

Junior Cole Householder leads the crew of Raiders to watch. A two-time state qualifier, Householder achieved the seventh step on the podium as a freshman. In two campaigns, he’s amassed an overall record of 73-18, never winning less than 35 matches in a season. Last year he was 36-8 as a 127-pounder. Householder will be looking for his third consecutive district title this postseason.

Easton Belfiore, a junior, will try to rebound from a 2022-2023 season in which he went 15-14 at 172 pounds and didn’t advance past districts. As a freshman, Belfiore won 25 matches and qualified for states. Junior Gavin Hannah saw his first significant varsity action last year, going 25-12 and qualifying for regionals. Anthony Ceriani, another talented junior, joined Brookville’s wrestling team last season after moving north from Georgia. He had an 11-16 record, finishing fourth at districts to qualify for regionals.

Not to be outdone by the juniors is senior Jared Popson. Popson, who has a career record of 66-36, was 24-11 last year as he descended from 121 to 114 pounds. He placed third at districts a year ago, becoming a regional qualifier for the first time.
Of those making their varsity debuts, Klepfer expects big things out of light/middle weight grappler Blake Porter.

Assisting Klepfer are Mick Stormer, Quean Smith, Eli Morres, and Jon MacBeth.

Central Clarion Wildcats (AA)

There were a lot of changes at Clarion in the off season, perhaps the most noticeable being a new name.

Gone are the Clarion Bobcats, in are the Central Clarion Wildcats – bettering reflect the school’s wrestling co-op with Clarion-Limestone (C-L), North Clarion, and Keystone. Also new are blue-and-orange singlets, the Central Clarion color scheme, and a revamped practice room that features Wildcats-branded mats.

The most significant change, however, has to be the new wrestling coach, Braun Gourley stepping up from the junior high squad to lead the varsity. Clarion had a winning dual meet record the past two seasons, something Gourley wants to see continued under its new Central Clarion identity. Gourley is also targeting winning a tournament (they finished second in 2022-2023 at the Mercer VFW Tournament) and winning a match at the district duals after failing to advance past the first-round last year. At the individual-level, the aim is to win some district titles and advance a wrestler or two to states.

Central Clarion will be led by the junior duo of Logan Powell and Mason Gourley. Powell, a C-L student, is a two-time regional qualifier, having placed fourth at districts a year ago and second as a freshman. He compiled a 26-9 record last season wrestling as a 114-pounder. Gourley has qualified for regionals twice,
finishing as the district runner-up the past two seasons. The Clarion student was 32-7 wrestling at 152 pounds a year ago. He will start the season on the injured list, recuperating from knee surgery for bursitis with the aim of returning by the beginning of January.

Another experienced wrestler on the roster is Josh Beal, a student at Keystone. In three years as a starter, Beal has compiled a 42-18 record. Last season he went 18-5 at 285-pounds.

Keystone sophomore Jake Henry was 23-10 at 145 pounds a year ago in his first varsity season. Brendon Wright, a Clarion student, is also entering his second year on varsity. He showed potential last season when he posted a 12-17 record as a 139-pounder.

Assisting Gourley on the bench and in the practice room are Hunter Verge, Cam Slike, Mike LeFay, and Kyle Cathcart.

Clearfield Bison (AA)

Clearfield dropped from AAA to AA last season and announced its presence in the new classification with authority, almost upending Brookville’s streak of district dual titles.

The Bison return a line-up that features nine regional qualifiers, led by junior Brady Collins – a returning state medalist (fourth at 139 pounds). In two-years he’s compiled a 73-11 record, with two district championships, one regional title (2023), and a pair of trips to Hershey. Last season Collins was 38-5 senior Carter Chamberlain, a Cornell commit, is a three-time regional and two-time state qualifier (he was eighth as a sophomore, but didn’t place in 2023). Chamberlain is within striking distance of the 100-win milestone, entering the year with an 82-29 record. He was 37-8 last season competing at 189 pounds.

Other returning regional qualifiers include junior Ty Aveni and sophomores Coltyn Bumbarger, Bryndin Chamberlain, Cash Diehl, and Colton Ryan.

Aveni is a two-time regional qualifier, last year doing so at 145 pounds. He finished with a 24-12 record.

Bumbarger was 19-20 at 133 pounds in 2022-2023, Chamberlain 23-17 at 114 pounds, Deihl 31-12 at 107 pounds, and Ryan 24-16 at 127 pounds.

Senior Adam Rougeaux was a regional qualifier as a sophomore and junior Xavier Lutz as a freshman.

Rougeaux was 6-8 last season, while Lutz only wrestled three matches.
Not to be lost in the talented line-up is Carter Freeland. The junior is coming off a 22-12 campaign during which he split time between 172 and 160 pounds.

Assistant coaches are Andy Squires, Nate Sipes, and Brent Lykens.

Coudersport Falcons (AA)

The Falcons are led by senior Gavyn Ayers. A regional qualifier the past two seasons, Ayers was 18-6 last year at 215 pounds and captured the Allegheny Mountain League individual championship at that weight.

Coach Dirk Cowburn will also be looking for solid contributions from senior Owen Deutschlander and junior John Wright. Deutschlander went 17-12 last season as he descended from the 152-pound weight class to 145 pounds. Wright was 21-11 in 2022-2023 wrestling as a 172-pounder. He was a regional qualifier his freshman year.

Cranberry Berries (AA)

Head coach Dustin Wenner has a mix of returning, experienced wrestlers and new, inexperienced grapplers.

The Berries will definitely benefit from having four returning state qualifiers in the line-up – sophomore Dalton Wenner and juniors Elijah Brosius, Conner Reszkowski, and Dane Wenner.

Dalton Wenner had an impressive freshman season. The 107-pounder went 34-5, winning districts and regionals before taking seventh at states.

Brosius is a two-time state qualifier, placing eighth to end each of his trips to Hershey. He has won at least 32 matches each season, going 32-13 last year competing at 121 pounds. Thus far, his career mark stands at 66-21. A district champion as a freshman, he was third in 2023.

Reszkowski, a two-time regional qualifier, made his first trip to Hershey last season. He has a two-year mark of 58-26, going 30-13 at 133 pounds in 2022-2023.

Dane Wenner was a first-time state qualifier last year. He has never won fewer than 32 matches in a season, compiling an overall record of 68-20. He was 36-11 a year ago competing at 139 pounds. A two-time regional qualifier, both Wenner’s district appearances have resulted in third place finishes.

Devyn Fleger, a senior and two-year member of the varsity, qualified for regionals at the end of last season. A year ago, he competed at 152 pounds, going 27-15.
The Cranberry line-up features three other double-digit winners from a year ago – sophomores Brandon Murray (19-11 at 127 pounds) and Alex McLaughlin (15-12 at 114 pounds), as well as junior Daniel DeLong (18-13 at 135 pounds).

Coach Wenner is looking forward to having newcomer Aiden Thompson on the squad, the freshman placing seventh in 2023 at junior high states.

Assistant coaches are Darren Wenner, Mike Crocker, DJ Persing, and Nate McLaughlin.

Curwensville Golden Tide (AA)

The standout on the Curwensville roster has to be Logan Augenbaugh. The senior has qualified for regionals the past three seasons and was a district champion as a sophomore. In 2022-2023 Augenbaugh competed at 160 pounds, going 32-11.

Other returners with winning records for Dean Swatsworth’s team are juniors Austin Gilliland and Alex Murawski, both of who competed at the varsity level for the first time last year. Gilliland was 21-13 at 107 pounds and Murawski 12-10 at 152 pounds.

DuBois Beavers (AAA)

New Beavers head coach Jacob Krupa is looking for DuBois to improve upon its 5-10 dual meet record of a year ago. He believes the Beavers have the potential to be an excellent team, noting his grapplers are buying into the process of improving. Helping facilitate this forward progression are seniors Zach Gallagher and Davey Aughenbaugh, who have stepped up to lead by example. Both Gallagher and
Aughenbaugh have high expectations for themselves, which include state medals. This has translated into a work ethic wherein they wrestle relaxed and with a willingness to take risks in trying new moves.

The rest of the team is following suit.

Gallagher is coming off a state qualifying season at 285 pounds, during which he went 33-9 and won a district title and advanced, for the second time in his career, to regionals. His overall record is 69-35.

Aughenbaugh is a three-time regional qualifier and two-time district champ (last season and as a freshman). His overall mark of 60-24 was assisted by a 20-4 campaign at 139 pounds in 2022-2023.

There are three other returning regional qualifiers on the Beavers’s roster – junior Carter Wilson and sophomores Samson Deeb and Antonio Giambanco. Wilson was 20-15 a year ago, starting the season at 172 pounds but then dropping to 152 pounds. Deeb punched his ticket to regionals by winning the 127-pound title at districts. He had a freshman record of 27-11. Giambanco went 14-13 in his first varsity season, a campaign that was highlighted by a runner-up placement at the district tournament.

Krupa is looking for big things from freshman Peyton Geer, noting he has a lot of wrestling experience.

He expects Geer’s success in junior high to continue at the varsity level.
Tony Geer and Dennis Nosker are Krupa’s assistants.

Johnsonburg Rams (AA)

Head coach Mike Votano has a young team with only one wrestler having more than a year of varsity experience, senior Cameron Larkin with two seasons under his belt. Larkin was 10-6 in 2022-2023 wrestling anywhere from 172 to 215 pounds.

The key to Johnsonburg’s season is the development of its young wrestlers, with tournaments an important “experience builder.” Votano reported that the team is working hard in practice and believes the Rams should contend in most of their dual meets.

The Rams do return a regional qualifier from a year ago, sophomore Avery Bittler. He had a first-year record of 29-14 at 145 pounds.

Other wrestlers who cut their varsity teeth last season were sophomores Gino Casilio (5-10 primarily at 121 pounds), Brady Porter (6-6 primarily at 114 pounds) and Gage Singer (9-14 at 107 pounds). Junior Edwin Horner wrestled one match (0-1 at 285 pounds) and sophomore Ethan Hight three matches (0-3 at 215/285 pounds).

Votano’s assistants are Eric Iorfido, Casey Zimmerman, Tony Casilio, Paul Allegretto, and Tyler Dilley.

Kane Wolves (AA)

The Wolves might be few in number, but head coach Mike Swartwood, Jr. does have a hammer – senior Reece Bechakas, a district champion and state qualifier the past two seasons. Bechakas went 33-9 in 2022-2023 and also captured an AML championship last year.

Senior Ben Walter and junior Kayin Bard return after putting-up winning records a year ago. Walter wrestled primarily at 172 pounds and was 25-14. Bard went 22-15 at 114 pounds.

Oswayo Valley Green Wave (AA)

This small, inexperienced squad will be relying quite a bit on junior Andrew Coriaty. A two-time regional qualifier who earned a trip to Hershey last season, Coriaty was 21-9 wrestling mainly at 107 pounds in 2022-2023.

Port Allegany Gators (AA)

The obvious strength of head coach Bradley Greenman’s line-up is in the upper weights.

Leading the way for Port Allegany is junior Carson Neely, who went 26-2 at 285 pounds last season enroute to winning the (AML) individual championship, placing first at district and regionals, and earning a fourth-place finish in Hershey.

Senior Miska Young also qualified for states in 2023, doing so at 215 pounds. Young has won 32 matches each of his two seasons on the varsity mat, against 8 losses as a sophomore and 10 as a freshman. A two-time regional qualifier, Young was an AML champ a year ago.

Like his brother, junior Juuso Young is a two-time regional qualifier. Last year he went 18-8 competing as a 189-pounder.

Sophomore Aiden Bliss shone in his first varsity campaign a year ago, going 22-14 at 172 pounds and qualifying for regionals.

Greenman has a group of five freshmen that he expects to fill roles early while the upperclassmen get down to weight. He is looking for a good year from newcomer Ian Fitzsimmons, a student at Smethport (Port Allegany’s co-op partner).

Lofty goals have been set for the Gators by their coach and wrestlers – among them, winning the AML championship, competing for the District 9 dual title and individual titles, and sending at least four to Hershey. This will require the team staying consistent and hitting its peak as the postseason approaches.

Assistant coaches are Chad Saltsman, Doug Triplett, Nate Schwab, Jacob Kallenborn, Adam Greenman, Nick Budd, and Ethan Budd.

Punxsutawney Chucks (AAA)

Punxsutawney head coach DJ Gould is excited about the upcoming season, looking forward to seeing what his athletes can do on the mat. He has eight seniors in the line-up who, in addition to being positive and encouraging to each other, have helped the younger wrestlers along.

The Chucks return six grapplers who qualified for regionals in 2023. Gould believes this year’s team not only has the potential of sending more to regionals, but could have multiple state qualifiers.

Punxsutawney senior Dyson Gould, who recently committed to wrestle at American, might be the most accomplished of the Chuck grapplers. A regional-qualifier the past two seasons, he advanced to states last year. Gould put together a record of 20-7 a year ago as he descended from 127 to 114 pounds.

Five other Chucks made their first trip to regionals last season – seniors David Kunselman, Landon Martz, and Nick Motter, as well as sophomores Hunter Dobson and Jordan Rutan. Two of these had over 20 wins, Rutan was 27-5 at 121 pounds and Martz 23-8 at 189 pounds. Kunselman went 12-17 at 189 pounds, Motter 4-21 at 127 pounds, and Dobson 14-16 at 107 pounds.

Coach Gould has two newcomers that should help the team, sophomores Logan Moore and Breydon Trithart.

Joel Bowers is Gould’s assistant.

Ridgway Elkers (AA)

An inexperienced squad, the Elkers will be looking to Michael Copello and Benji Truchan to be their cornerstones. Copello, a sophomore, was a regional qualifier last year at 107 pounds and had a record of 20-10. Truchan split his time between 172 and 189 pounds, going 10-10.

Redbank Valley Bulldogs (AA)

The Bulldogs have a fairly large roster, albeit short on experience. Of the 30 wrestlers on the preseason roster, only 11 have wrestled varsity – just three with more than one season under their belts.

Head coach Mike Kundick, entering his 18th season at Redbank Valley’s helm, isn’t so much concerned about wins and losses this year as he is about the individual development of the squad’s wrestlers. For Kundick this is another season similar to last, with the emphasis placed on teaching and learning in the practice room and on the competition mat.

Kundick does have several wrestlers he’s looking to for big seasons.

The most experienced of Kundick’s returners is senior Daniel Evans. Evans qualified for regionals as a freshman 106-pounder, but has been bit by the injury bug the past two seasons. A year ago, Evans went 15-14 as he descended from 121 to 114 pounds.

Other wrestlers with more than a year of varsity experience are senior Levi Shick and junior Drew Byers, both entering their third seasons. Shick is coming off a 12-16 campaign as a 133-pounder, while Byers wrestled anywhere from 152-172 pounds last year, going 11-18.

Junior Eli Shaffer and sophomore Nolan Barnett flashed potential in 2022-2023, getting better over the course of their first varsity seasons. Shaffer was 10-8 at 107 pounds and Barnett went 14-17 as a 152-pounder.

Kundick will be assisted by Deven Laird and Ruben Carrillo.

Sheffield Wolverines (AA)

Head coach Tom Holden reports that the Wolverines are solid up the middle. They will receive some support from Abraxis, Sheffield’s co-op partner, in the upper weights, with several experienced wrestlers expected to join the team.

The Wolverines are led by two returning AML Champions – senior Chase Kyler and sophomore Hayden Holden. A season ago Kyler was 23-12 wrestling primarily at 139 pounds, while Holden was 20-12, mainly as a 127-pounder.

Also in the line-up will be 20-match winner Trenton Mead. The senior was 20-15 last year at 172 pounds.

The coaches from Abraxis are Kevin Smeil and Stephanie Snyder. Sheffield assistants are Cooper Traister and Jimmy Holden.

St. Marys Dutch (AA)

New coach Garrett Hurd reports that the Dutch are adapting well to the changed coaching staff and improving quickly in a high-paced practice room. Drilling intensity is the focus at St. Marys, which Hurd feels is vital to improvement. He added that a few wrestlers who compete year-round are setting the tone and providing leadership for the team.

The Dutch were in the district dual tournament mix last season, their first in AA after dropping from AAA. They will be working toward winning that event this year. Individually, the postseason goal is to advance as many wrestlers as possible.

Junior Aiden Beimel and Jaden Wheler are returning state qualifiers. Beimel was 25-10 last season at 106 pounds. As a freshman he won districts and regionals, making it to Hershey for the first time in his career. Wehler was 27-13 a year ago wrestling as a 145-pounder and is the reigning district champion at that weight.

Andrew Wolfanger, a senior, is, like Beimel, a two-time regional qualifier. He wrestled at 152 pounds in 2022-2023, going 37-12.

Hurd feels The Dutch have a strong freshman class, highlighted by Konnor Meyer, Brody Wehler, and Jack Keebler, that will strengthen the line-up. Meyer is a student at Elk County Catholic, who St. Marys co-ops with.

Assistant varsity coaches are David Fordoski, Steve Simcheck, Sam Miller, and Adam Bickford.

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