Bears prepare for their second season
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Mike Pokrinchak (top), Pleasant Valley's 135-pounder helps solidify the Bears lineup.
Pleasant Valley kept itself in the running for the Mountain Valley Conference wrestling championship by rolling past Lehighton 48-26 Monday night.
That is nothing new for the Bears, who have been a dominant force on the MVC mats over the past decade.
In fact, Pleasant Valley had a string of six straight MVC wrestling crowns snapped last year when it lost out to Stroudsburg. Prior to that loss to the Mountaineers, the Bears had reeled off 43 consecutive MVC dual meet victories.
The Bears are 5-0 in the conference (10-5 overall) and scheduled to host defending champion Stroudsburg on Wednesday, weather permitting, in another showdown to decide the MVC title.
One would think Pleasant Valley would be hot for revenge against the Mounties, especially after losing a tight battle with them a year ago
Last year, Bears coach Mark Getz actually prioritized the MVC match with Stroudsburg over the District 11 Duals.
When Pleasant Valley drew the Mounties as a preliminary round opponent at last year's Duals, Getz put out his Junior Varsity wrestlers rather than tip his hand for the MVC meeting at Stroudsburg the following week.
This year, the Bears didn't get matched up with the Mounties in the opening round of the Duals, drawing Blue Mountain and sustaining a 37-21 loss to the Eagles on Sunday.
The match with Stroudsburg, which is coached by Matt Kleinle, a former teammate of Getz at Nazareth, remains important to the Bears, but they haven't forgotten to focus on the upcoming District 11 individual tournament.
"We're going past that. We're done with it," said Getz at District Duals when asked if the Bears were gunning for the Mounties after the heartbreaker a year ago. "That's last year's result. We're moving on, because we want to get our kids ready for Districts, Regionals and States. That's what we're focusing on. With the proper training, our kids will be groomed for that."
The Bears have had plenty of grooming, participating at the highly competitive Reno (Nevada) Tournament of Champions and the Powerade Tournament at Canon McMillan High School, as well as the Easton and Konkrete Duals. They've even hosted two tournaments of their own, including the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Festival.
Pleasant Valley has held its own, and the top of its line-up is solid from 103 to 145.
Senior Jordan Toledo is 30-2 at 130 pounds. A three-time State qualifier, Toledo is the Bears' all-time winningest wrestler and is hopeful of bringing some hardware home from Hershey in March.
Five other Bears have already hit the 20-win mark, including seniors Jake Chamberlain (23-5) and Mike Pokrinchak (22-6) and a trio of sophomores, Alex Yanovich (24-7), Ernest Klingel (24-8) and Mike Dahlstrom (21-7).
Pleasant Valley grapplers who have added double digits in the win column are seniors Cameron Kroemelbein (17) and Ryan Sokolowski (13) and freshmen Sean Bianco (15) and Hunter Diehl (10). Junior Samantha Klingel is 5-0 filling in for Bianco.
If the Bears have a weakness, it's in the area of 160-171. In the upper weights, Ryan Gouger did score a pin against Blue Mountain's Tyler Rolshausen at District Duals and Kroemelbein and Diehl are making contributions.
"We've been working with those two weight classes, because that's where we've been lacking," admitted Getz. "We want to keep improving there."
Taking on the Mounties will be a challenge. Stroudsburg is 14-4 and has a 34-33 victory over the same Blue Mountain team that defeated Pleasant Valley at District Duals.
Don't expect the Bears to back down, however, and no matter what the outcome of their showdown with Stroudsburg, whenever it occurs, they are aware there is a second season waiting.
"Don't get me wrong. We'd love to win that match," said Getz. "Stroudsburg has been a pretty solid team, and Matt's done a great job with them this year. We're looking forward to it, whenever it happens. It should be a great match, but we are in a training mode right now."
DISTRICT DUALS UPDATE - Top seeded and unbeaten Pen Argyl (17-0) captured the District 11 Class AA Duals crown last night at Freedom High School, beating Colonial League rivals Northern Lehigh (41-9) and Saucon Valley (39-21) en route to the crown. The Green Knights were seeded first and had previous wins over the Bulldogs and Panthers, so their ascendancy to the top of the heap wasn't unexpected.
The Class AAA results were a bit of a surprise, as fourth seeded Easton knocked off top-seeded Nazareth 31-29 and second seeded Parkland 28-21 to claim the title.
Of course, the Red Rovers have one of the premier programs in Pa. every year, but this year's District Duals championship is a feather in the caps of coach Steve Powell and his matmen, as they had already lost to the Trojans (37-30) and Blue Eagles (35-27) in their prior meetings this season.
PANTHER TOURNAMENT RESCHEDULED - The inaugural Coal Cracker Round Robin Tournament, originally scheduled for last Saturday at Panther Valley High School but postponed by the snowstorm, has been rescheduled for this Saturday, Feb. 13.
At last notice the tournament was looking for a couple of teams to replace Harrisburg and Lake-Lehman, which can't make it for this week due to other commitments.