With the regular season winding down and the postseaon on the horizon, it's time to take a look at how TIMES NEWS Area teams fared this season. Some teams came into this season with high hopes after achieving success last year, and most met or exceeded those expectations.
One of the most improved teams this year would have to be the Jim Thorpe Olympians, who are 8-11 overall. The Olympians, 1-17 last year, have been keyed by freshmen and senior leadership from returning starters. Senior Brian Ohl leads the team with a 29-7 mark, improving on his 24 wins last season. Ohl will be sure to make noise at districts this coming weekend.
The Olympians have also gotten solid performances out of underclassmen, such as freshman Ali Capobianco, who is 18-8 this season, and fellow freshman Kevan Gentile, who is 21-12. Junior Kyle Morales has been steady as well, turning in a 19-12 mark this year.
Lehighton coach Dan Williams knew his team would be young this season, but there's no doubt the program has a solid foundation moving forward.
The Indians' top three wrestlers this year have all been freshmen, with Tegan Durishin leading the way at 24-5. Connor Frey and Zach Kemmerer are not far behind, as they sit at 23-6 and 16-8, respectively.
The overall team results may not have been what Williams was looking for, but the Indians have been forced to forfeit bouts in all of their matches this season, which is difficult for any team to overcome. Lehighton has a solid core of young talent, which should bode well for the team in the future.
Northern Lehigh has had a number of contributors this season, namely Ty Herzog, who picked up his 100th win this year. Herzog has been a rock for the Bulldogs, turning in a 21-4 record this season. He is primed to improve on his eighth place finish at states last year.
Other key contributors for the Bulldogs have been senior Cody Bowman and freshman Matt Schmall, who were 19-6 and 17-6, respectively.
Rival Northwestern has a had a tough season as far as team results are concerned, but the Tigers have gotten a few encouraging individual performances this year.
Senior Michael Ortiz has returned from a knee injury that ended his season last year at regionals by going 21-3. He has a chance to repeat as distrct champ this coming weekend, but the real prize for Ortiz will be continuing on past districts and finishing what he started at regionals last year.
Fellow senior Mitchell Evans has also had a nice season for the Tigers, going 15-9 and providing leadership on a squad where he and Ortiz are the only seniors.
Palmerton was one of three area teams to qualify for District Duals this season, joining Panther Valley in AA and Pleasant Valley in AAA. The Bombers (13-6) were eliminated in the first round by Panther Valley.
Still, the team enjoyed considerable success throughout the year on many levels. Josh Evans returned from a 31-9 season last year to go 27-3 this year. Evans will be looking to improve on his silver medal from a year ago at districts this coming weekend.
Other standout performers for the Bombers have been Dillon Masington (20-6), Joe Bubble (19-6), Zack Christman (22-8), Zach Graver (23-4) and Skyler Rosenberry (21-11.) With five 20-bout winners, the Bombers certainly have reason to be pleased with their results this season.
Panther Valley, the team that defeated Palmerton at District Duals, has had an equally impressive season. The Panthers (12-7) ran into a road block in Bethlehem Catholic after defeating the Bombers, but their fate was no different than any other team that faced the state champion Golden Hawks this season.
Panther Valley has been led by Rian Shubeck (32-2) who looks primed to make a run at districts this coming weekend. The Panthers also got Richard Nase back from a season-ending skin condition a year ago, which went better than almost anyone could have expected. Nase picked up where he left off last season, going 25-10 this year.
Panther Valley also features Matt Buss (20-15), Darren Goida (23-13), Dylan Moyer (22-16), Lenny Ogozalek (29-6) and Rich Smith (21-10), proving they have some of the best depth of any area team. The Panthers have the talent to compete with any team and they showed it this season.
The third and final area team that qualified for District Duals this season was Pleasant Valley. The Bears (14-8) had arguably the toughest act to follow of any team, having gone 18-2 last year en route to capturing the Mountain Valley Conference title. Pleasant Valley also returned last year's TIMES NEWS Wrestler of the Year, Sean Bianco, who went 42-4 last season.
The season certainly didn't go as planned, with Bianco only competing in five matches before being dismissed from the team. Luckily for the Bears, the team features other quality wrestlers to offset Bianco's loss.
Junior Kenny Yanovich (28-2) returned after winning 41 matches a year ago and earning bronze medals at districts and regionals to lead the Bears. He will look to improve on those performances over the next few weeks. Joell Toledo (25-5), Mike Benner (21-4), Hunter Deihl (21-5) and James Felipa (22-9) will also be looking for success.
Tamaqua's season was derailed when Colin Mashack (19-0) lost over a month due to a concussion. He's returning at the perfect time, as he again looks to medal in Hershey.
Dylan Rynkiewicz (26-6) and Luke Matsago (18-11) have also had strong season for the Raiders.
ELIMINATED (FOR NOW) ... Much of the talk this past week has been about the International Olympic Committee's decision to eliminate wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games. The committee's executive board made the reccommendation last week, which prompted an immediate backlash, especially in the United States where there is a strong tradition of high school and collegiate wrestling.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams categorized the decision as what was the best program for the 2020 Olympic Games.
He also said it was about "renewing and renovating" the program for the Olympics.
Wrestling will now join seven other sports hoping to be included in the 2020 Olympics. The other sports are karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu and a joint bid from baseball and softball. All of these sports will be hoping to secure one opening in 2020.
The IOC will meet again in May to decide which sports will be included in 2020. The final vote will be made at the IOC session in September.