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‘Team’ defines this year’s Jim Thorpe wrestlers

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    Members of the 2019-20 Jim Thorpe wrestling team include, front from left, Justin Aue, Will Schwartz, Ridge Snyder, Gabe Heaney and Robert Murphy; middle, Beau Strika, Chris Strika, Alex Klimasins, Camron Tinajero and Jared Newhall; back, head coach Shawn Albert, Caleb McDermott, Kendall Herron, Derek Hunter, Gabe Herschman and Angel Cintron. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published December 05. 2019 11:28AM

For the past few years, the Jim Thorpe wrestling program has churned out some of the best wrestlers in the area, with the likes of state champion Kevan Gentile, 2019 Times News Wrestler of the Year Ethan Mourdant and TN All Star selection Austin Williams.

Coach Shawn Albert’s overall team record has suffered, however, because more times than not, they forfeited as many as five weight classes due to a lack of numbers.

Coming off a 9-7 record from last season, this Thorpe ‘team’ is primed to compete with the Schuylkill League’s best in its efforts to win a league title.

“One of the duties of our three captains is to recruit new members to our team, and Kendall Herron, Will Schwartz, and Gabriel Heaney have done a great job in that respect,” said Albert. “We intend to put someone on the mat for every weight class.”

Last year, the Olympians won the Pope John Paul Tournament and the South Williamsport Invitational with help from Mourdant, who now wrestles heavyweight for Millersburg, and Williams who starts at 184 pounds for Delaware Valley.

The Olympians have plenty of returning firepower, beginning with Schwartz in the 113-pound weight class. He won 25 matches a year ago, and earned a fourth-place finish at districts to qualify for regionals.

“Will is our ‘Rudy’,” said Albert. “He’s the most dedicated mat rat we have since Gentile. Nobody perseveres more than him. He’s good with leg sweeps for takedowns, and with his cross face cradle when he’s in the top position.”

Heaney returns at 132 after a 20-win season.

Sophomore Alex Klimasins brings experience and mat skill from his time at George Washington High School in Philadelphia. Albert said his 145-pound wrestler is “all in” from the start of a match, but needs to use more technique and strategy against more accomplished opponents.

At 152, junior Chris Strika steps off the football field and onto the mat.

Twenty-one-match winner Jared Newhall will wrestle at 170. A top-three finisher in three tournaments last season, Newhall has a good shot to make it to regionals as long as he “stays true to his technique,” said Albert.

Caleb McDermott comes off a 19-win campaign, and Albert contends that his second-year wrestler is the perfect mix of brains and brawn for the 182-pound class.

Football starter Dom Madera fills the 195-pound class, and according to Albert, wants to enjoy his wrestling experience, and win as much as anyone.

Herron will wrestle at 220. In his first year as a wrestler, he won 20 matches and placed in the top-four in three tournaments.

Last but not least is heavyweight Derek Hunter. With 34 victories and a sixth-place finish at regionals to qualify for states, he’s the consummate wrestler – hard to take down, is quicker than heavier opponents, has good hips for balance and is skilled at countering for quick takedowns.

Albert is excited about the team’s potential and has set the bar high by expecting his wrestlers to finish in the top three of the league.

That achievement should qualify his team for the district tournament.

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