As a dual meet team, Palmerton's lack of depth is a shortcoming that has been difficult to overcome.

The Blue Bombers have been forfeiting as many as three weight classes per match, resulting in a 3-9 record.

Dig deeper, however, and one will find a young Bomber squad that is holding its own despite the lack of numbers.

"If you have looked at the matches we've wrestled without the forfeits, we would have lost only 2-3 of them," said first-year Palmerton coach Dave Lavin. "That's a good indication of what we're doing."

Lavin, who took over the Palmerton mat post from Rick Petersen, brings an outside perspective to the job.

A three-time All-League honoree and a Sectional placewinner while wrestling at Mamaroneck (N.Y) High School, Lavin wrestled collegiately at Muhlenberg College, where he was a team captain and an Academic All-Conference selection.

"There's definitely a lot more competition here," said Lavin of the differences between his native state and District 11 wrestling. "What's unique here is, there's so much depth. Even the top wrestlers in District 11 will have some losses during the year.

"It's more comparable to collegiate wrestling. You have to be mentally prepared to wrestle every match."

While there might be more depth across the board in D-11, ironically, depth is the Bombers' biggest deficiency at the moment.

Cody Garner, Jarrett Kleintop and Travis Wolfe are out of the line-up with injuries, although Lavin is hopeful Garner and Kleintop could be ready later in the season.

With Garner out, there are only two seniors on the Bombers. Dan Costenbader has an 18-2 record at 145, placing first in the New Hope Tournament, and Mike Englert, a Southeast AA Regional qualifier last year, is 16-4, with a second place at New Hope and a sixth place in the Oviedo (Florida) High School Tournament.

Costenbader and Englert have both been named as TIMES NEWS Golfers of the Year, and Lavin feels they have the potential to reach the State level in this sport as well.

"They are two very good wrestlers who can go to States this year," related Lavin. "They are the full package. They are our two captains. They play golf together, and they have had a whole lot of success with golf. They are so disciplined in everything they do.

"Mike is very quiet, but he is an awesome worker. Dan is a lot more vocal and he's not afraid to get on the other kids when they need it. There's a good dynamic between them, and I've seen a lot of growth in them as leaders."

Several other Bombers are enjoying .500 or better seasons to date. Sophomores Sam Oberlander (a New Hope champ who is 15-5 at 119), Cody Grohotolski (9-9 at 135) and Kane Kralik (13-5 at 189) lead the way, and freshman Dillon Massington, (12-8), who has a martial arts background, has held his own despite wrestling up a weight class.

Others who have been contributing to the line-up are sophomores Dallas Miata (130), Travis Verzino (160), Zach Brett (171) and Kawika Mook (189) and freshmen Shane Grohotolski (112) and Tony Gardo (140).

Lavin wants to build the Bomber program so that it has the numbers to battle with the rest of the Colonial League on a more even basis.

"We need to get more numbers and more depth in the line-up," he stressed. "The kids we do have are improving a lot and impressing me. They are starting to get it."

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IMPRESSIVE DEBUT - Northwestern freshman Michael Ortiz had to wait until the two-pound allowance went into effect last week in order to debut in the Tigers' line-up at 103.

Ortiz couldn't have gotten off to a better start. At the Parkland Duals this past weekend, he won all five of his bouts, each by fall, to win the Most Outstanding Wrestling Award. All five of his victims were from Class AAA teams.

Ortiz was a runner-up at the District 11 Junior High championships last season, and Tigers' coach Jim Moll, in his first year at the helm, had high expectations for him.

"I think he wrestled better than I expected him to," Moll told The Northwestern Press. "He cut off a lot of weight this week to get down there. I'm glad he's in the line up now."

Ortiz came up through the Northwestern elementary ranks and one of his role models is Evan Yenolevich, the Tigers' state champion of a year ago.

"I just pretty much stuck with the stuff I know," Ortiz told the Press. "Coach told me to just go out there and work my stuff. I really like the dump and arm bars. I really wrestle like Evan Yenolevich a lot. I watched him wrestle a lot ever since I started."

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BEARS FOURTH AT NHSCA FEST - Pleasant Valley once again hosted the National High School Coaches Association Wrestling Festival last weekend, and the Bears went 3-2 to finish in fourth place.

The Bears scored wins over Archbishop Wood, Souderton and St. Augustine Prep while losing to Northampton and Timberland, New Hampshire.

The match with the Konkrete Kids was a tight one, with Northampton pulling out a 33-27 verdict. "That's the closest we've come to beating one of the 'Big Three' (Easton, Northampton, Nazareth) since I'm here," said Pleasant Valley coach Mark Getz.

A number of Bears went 5-0 at the NHSCA Fest, including Ernest Klingel, Mike Dahstrom, Alex Yanovich, Jordan Toledo, Mike Pokrinchak and Jake Chamberlain, while Ryan Sokolowski went 4-1.

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100 FOR "LUCY" - Lehighton senior David Lucykanish hit the 100th career victory mark over the weekend during the Indian Duals. Lucykanish improved to 22-4 and joined Pleasant Valley's Jordan Toledo as TN area grapplers joining the Century Club so far this season.

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PANTHER VALLEY ROUND ROBIN - Panther Valley is putting the finishing touches on a round robin tournament scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6.

At the moment, teams scheduled to compete include the host Panthers, North Schuylkill, Norristown, Allentown Central Catholic, Jim Thorpe, and Harrisburg. Panther Valley hopes to have all the slots filled by the end of the week. Reportedly, two possibilities include Lake-Lehman and Brockway.

The tournament is planned for the high school, using four mats.