Dawgs have 'meat' in middle of lineup
For the first few days of practice, the Northern Lehigh wrestling room seemed emptier than usual.
That's because nearly half of head coach Todd Herzog's roster was still on the gridiron.
"It affected us a lot, actually, but it's a good affect," said Herzog, who enters his 16th season with the program. "Anytime you have one of your school's programs being successful, how can you condemn that. I always encourage my athletes to play multiple sports.
"We were right behind the football team."
Herzog would have loved to see the football team play in the state final, but he's glad the room is back to its normal capacity.
"It affects our season, absolutely," Herzog said. "Any time you have half a room compared to a full room, it's going affect the way you're training the guys. We have given those guys a few days off and let them ease their way back into it.
"We continued training the other guys hard and prepare them for an opening season tournament."
The gridiron-to-grappling group includes senior Brody Minnich, juniors Dylan Hofmann and Kyle Greenawalt, sophomores Dustin Henritzy, Billy Jones and Danny Marsh.
"They know how to wrestle," Herzog said. "It's just now a matter of attaining a level of workability where their conditioning is going to match their level of wrestling skills."
Regardless of losing district and regional runner-up Craemer Hedash (34-12 , Colonial League 1st Team), Chris Christ (135 lbs., Colonial League Honorable Mention), Zach Fleming and Dan Huemmer to graduation, Herzog only remains concerned about the well-being of his light weights.
"We're a little green and light in the light weights again this year," Herzog said. "Right now, I'm working on 12-pounder. That's our biggest hole to fill. But, we go from about 119 all the way through. We've got a solid wrestler in every weight class from there. I don't see any weakness in there.
"We have a lot of meat in our lineup right in the middle. We got a lot of play and a lot of flexibility with those guys."
Senior Lucas Dise (20-10 last season) is locked in at 119. Zane Heller, the Bulldogs' lone district champion from a year ago, is penciled in at 125. A trio of Bulldogs sophomore Cody Bowman, junior Kyle Baumann and newcomer Austin Stevens, who was 18-8 at the Middle School level are vying for 130 and 135.
Senior Nikko Stevens (33-10, district runner-up, third at regionals, sixth at states), junior Dylan Hofmann (27-8 (third at districts, regional qualifier) and sophomores Ty Herzog (28-12, fourth at districts, sixth at regionals) and Connor Hedash (16-13) are all in the mix from 140 to 152-pounds.
Kyle Greenawald (12-17), Marsh and Jones are all available to handle 160, while Colin Hedash (36-5, district runner-up, third at regionals, fifth at states) looks to make some more noise at 171. Minnich and Neff also provide some more talent there, while Brandon Loch (8-18) will return to 285.
"As a team, obviously we want to be very competitive in every match we roll into," Herzog said. "We know the talk is about Bethlehem Catholic and Pen Argyl and they're kind of in an elite group right now. But, we don't feel we're that far off from it. It's going to take a good effort to beat us, put it that way.
"We're going to show up on any day and if you take us lightly we're going to beat you. I think we have a great working group of kids, a focused group of kids. We can definitely be a spoiler if you take us lightly, that's for sure."