Two of Pennsylvania's biggest names in high school wrestling have made bombshell announcements recently regarding Penn State's national championship program, albeit for different reasons.
Chance Marsteller, a senior at Kennard-Dale High School in York County, and Thomas Haines, a senior at Solanco High School in Lancaster County, are among the top-ranked wrestlers in the nation.
Last week, Marsteller announced that he will attend Penn State University, ending years of speculation about where he would attend college. "Years" is accurate: the state's fans have been speculating about his college future since Marsteller won the 2011 PIAA Class AAA 138-pound championship as a freshman.
Just a few days after Marsteller's announcement, Haines, who verbally declared this past November that he would go to Penn State, publicly revealed that he has re-opened his college recruiting.
The dual announcements are major news in the high school and college wrestling world. Both Marsteller, ranked first nationally among all seniors by Amateur Wrestling News, and Haines, ranked 16th nationally, have the opportunity to become Pennsylvania's 11th and 12th four-time PIAA wrestling champions in March.
Marsteller is 125-0 and, pending good health, is on track to set the record for the best unbeaten wrestling record in PIAA history. The current mark of 137-0 is held by Marsteller's mentor, Cary Kolat, who was an undefeated four-time PIAA champion from 1989 through 1992 for Jefferson-Morgan High School in Washington County .
Marsteller will not get near the state record for overall career victories. Upper Perkiomen's Zack Kemmerer won 199 matches from 2004-2007.
Marsteller will join Penn State's now-dominant program - the Nittany Lions have won the last three NCAA Division I wrestling championships - and presumably was coming in with Haines, who has a 132-5 career mark.
But Haines reversed his verbal just recently when upper weight Nick Nevills of Clovis, Cal., made a verbal declaration to the Nittany Lions. According to Haines' father David, that was enough for Thomas to re-open his recruiting.
Haines is projected to be a 285-pounder even though his state championships have come at 215 pounds and twice at 220 pounds. Nevills is a true heavyweight, having wrestled his entire career at 285 pounds.
CHANGES IN DISTRICT 11: There's a potentially big league shift afoot in District 11. The district's big-school league, the Lehigh Valley Conference, is inching closer toward inviting six Mountain Valley Conference schools to join the LVC for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Mountain Valley Conference is currently a seven-team league (except in football) comprised primarily of schools in the Poconos. The conference's southernmost member, Lehighton, is leaving after this season to join the Schuylkill League, a 21-school league on the district's western end.
The move, if it occurs, would put all of District 11's Class AAAA football and basketball programs in one conference for the first time and increase its membership from 12 schools to 18.
Ironically, the two Allentown city schools - William Allen and Louis E. Drieruff - left the Lehigh Valley Conference in football only just last year in an attempt to improve their struggling programs.
The potential merger stems from an earlier effort by some Lehigh Valley Conference schools to rid the conference of Allentown Central Catholic and Bethlehem Catholic. There have long been tensions between the large public schools and the two city Catholic schools, exacerbated in recent years by Bethlehem Catholic's sudden dominance in Class AA wrestling.
That effort was quickly beaten back within the LVC, but it opened the door for possible expansion with the Mountain Valley, whose schools were experiencing increasing difficulty filling schedules.
Opinion within the Lehigh Valley Conference is leaning toward adding the MVC schools, but the Lehigh Valley Conference cannot extend an invitation until it rewrites and approves constitutional language permitting it to do so. The LVC's current constitution prohibits the invitation.
NO HARM, NO FOUL IN PREP CHARTER ELIGIBILITY: One of the oddest eligibility cases in recent memory occurred in the spring when it was discovered that two girls basketball players from District 12-AAA champion Prep Charter had commuted daily from their residence in Coatesville to the Philadelphia city charter school this past season.
The School District of Philadelphia conducted an investigation following a complaint from a Coatesville resident that she had seen Prep Charter players Hannah Timmons and Martianna Wilson use the SEPTA train to commute to Philadelphia. She had recognized the girls from a game they played against her goddaughter's team, a Philadelphia Public League school.
The SDP found that the two girls had falsified their residential address, using an address with the city of Philadelphia rather than their Coatesville addresses, in order to enhance their chances of attending Prep Charter.
While students who live outside of Philadelphia are eligible to attend a city charter school, those within the city receive a higher priority on the admissions waiting list. Falsifying one's address for the purpose of attending another school for athletics is one of several transfer infractions that can result in PIAA ineligibility and possible forfeiture of games.
But after the investigation was concluded, District 12 decided that neither the girls nor Prep Charter would suffer any punishment. District 12 chairman Robert Coleman said the girls had signed transfer waiver forms from Coatesville and thus were academically eligible at Prep Charter.
Prep Charter advanced to the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals this past season before losing to eventual runner-up Bethlehem Catholic.
PIAA NOTES: Districts 3 and 11 have new chairmen. Ron Kennedy, athletic director at Donegal HS, replaces Sam Elias, athletic director at Lebanon HS, in District 3. Bob Hartman, athletic director at Whitehall HS, replaces Jason Zimmerman, athletic director at Northwestern Lehigh, in District 11.