After sustaining a season-ending foot injury during football, Mike Weaver has spent the first month of the wrestling season working to get back into condition.
The Panther Valley junior 160-pounder is showing signs of rounding back into form, flattening Upper Dauphin's James Lesh Wednesday night to put the exclamation point on the host Panthers' 39-24 victory over the Trojans in the Schuylkill League Division II opener for both teams.
With four-time division champion Mount Carmel now a member of the Heartland Conference, the Schuylkill II race is wide open. The Panthers (5-8 overall) are off to a good start in the chase after capturing eighth bouts to get the best of the Trojans (3-3), who were wrestling away from their Elizabethville home for the first time this season.
The Panthers picked up five falls in the process. The Trojans' only bonus points came from a pair of forfeits, as PV was missing heavyweight Nick German to go with a regular vacancy at 119.
The lightweights have been the Panthers' strength, and from 103-130 they won four of five bouts to turn a 9-9 deadlock into a 30-15 advantage.
Freshmen Len Ogozalek (10-6) started the run when he used an arm bar to toss Brandon Herb (4-6) onto his back en route to the mat slap at 1:07.
"That was a big win for us," said Panther Valley coach Tim Robb. "Lenny's at 103 but he only weighs 90 pounds, and he wrestled a kid who weighed 102."
Senior Nick O'Donnell (14-4) captured a defensive battle with Devon Hoffman at 112.
After a scoreless first period, O'Donnell took a 2-0 lead on a penalty point when Hoffman locked hands, then got an escape. O'Donnell dodged a last ditch takedown try by Hoffman, turning it into his own clinching takedown with 14 seconds left.
After PV forfeited to Erin Koppenhaver at 119, senior Kory Lopata (11-4) took out Tia Gototweski by locking up her head and arm for the pin at 4:46. Gototweski is no pushover; she has three wins over male opponents this season.
At 130, senior Brandon Gurka (8-6) shook off an early takedown by Jake Wolfe (4-4), using a half-nelson to show Wolfe the lights at 4:14.
Decisions by David Miller (135) and Ethan Gray (140) pulled Upper Dauphin within 30-21, but Panther senior Josh Vega hit a concrete special headlock to spin Ethan Stiles onto his back for an early five-point move that held up for a key 6-4 win at 145, giving PV breathing room at 33-21.
Weaver (7-4) turned an arm bar into a half-nelson to dispose of Lesh.
"I'm just getting back into shape (from his football injury) and I'm close to getting healthy," said Weaver, a Southeast Regional qualifier last year. "This was a big step for us, and we can build off this and our own tournament (the Anthracite Duals) this weekend."
Senior Alex Lorkowski (9-9) added a pin with a cradle at 189 and junior Steven Snyder picked up a 7-2 decision at 171 for the Panthers, who face another division test at Halifax next Wednesday.
"Halifax will be tough, but we have an opportunity to win our division, and it's been awhile since we won it." said Robb.
Panther Valley 39, Upper Dauphin 24
103 - Len Ogozalek (PV) pin Brandon Herb, 1:07.
112 - Nick O'Donnell (PV) dec. Devon Hoffman 4-1.
119 - Erin Koppenhaver (UD) won by forfeit.
125 - Kory Lopata (PV) pin Tia Gototweski, 4:46.
130 - Brandon Gurka (PV) pin Jake Wolfe. 4:14.
135 - David Miller (UD) dec. Dustin Marblestone 11-4.
140 - Ethan Gray (UD) dec. Jared Eickhoff 8-3.
145 - Josh Vega (PV) dec. Ethan Stiles 6-4.
152 - J.P. Leitzel (UD) dec. Gage Rohlfing 5-2.
160 - Mike Weaver (PV) pin James Lesh, 1:43.
*171 - Steven Snyder (PV) dec. Joe Becker 7-2.
189 - Alex Lorkowski (PV) pin Josh Paul, 1:24.
215 - Brock Snyder (UD) dec. John Horvath 7-2.
285 - Chris Forney (UD) won by forfeit.
* - match started at 171 pounds.
Junior High - Panther Valley 57-33