Olympian mat team wants commitment
Front: Tylor Day, Deryk Gibbon, Ali Capobianco, Johnathan Condly, and Kevan Gentile. Middle: Nick Pale, Ryan Ruberto, Mike Munoz, Avery Ziegenfus, Pollux Fisher, Mike Helmer. Back: Manager Tara Hartman, Manager Dylan Bradley, Brian Ohl, Jedidiah Scorzelli, Shayne Watts, Tyler Andrew, Caleb Heller, Manager Avery Day.
The goal may be somewhat unorthodox.
But Jim Thorpe head coach Shawn Albert believes it's the first step in building a solid program.
While most mentors focus on wins, depth at every weight class, or individuals advancing in the postseason, the Olympians' third-year mentor is concentrating on something different.
"I expect big things this year," said Albert. "Big things to me is, first of all, 90 to 95 percent of our team finishing the year out. That doesn't sound great, but when you talk about commitment with kids in high school right now, that's huge. We have good character kids who we hope stick with it throughout the year.
"I want to have our 20 guys back with us at the end of the year. That's my No. 1 goal. If we do that, then a lot of our smaller goals as a team and even as individuals will accomplish themselves. Commitment is No. 1."
Albert doesn't have to worry about whether Brian Ohl and Ryan Ruberto will stick around. The two seniors are ready for their fourth season as varsity wrestlers and are unquestionably the leaders of Thorpe's squad.
"Brian has gone through the program at the knee-hi, junior high and varisty levels," said Albert about his 145-pounder. "He understands wrestling and he understands what it takes to win. And as much as he's a wrestler, he's also an assistant coach for our guys. Ryan's our heavyweight. We have a lot of new guys at the upper weight levels. He's very patient with the new guys and understands you can't teach them the entire sport of wrestling but he's trying to give them little things that will help them along the way. That kind of leadership is big.
"They want to win. They've been a part of this program a long time and they know the struggles they've been through and they committed themselves to stay with the program. They want to see this program change and it's their time. We owe it to them to make sure they go out with success."
Ohl posted a 24-18 record a year ago while Ruberto finished at 14-13. They were the only two Olympians with winning records, but not the only two with varsity experience.
Albert also welcomes back seniors Avery Ziegenfuss (132) and Mike Munoz (170), juniors Mike Helmer (138), Kyle Morales (126), Cameron Dickson (160) and Jedidiah Scorzelli (195), and sophomore Jonathan Condly (113).
While the combined record of the six grapplers above was only 32-123, the experience they gained on the mat was invaluable.
Some of the younger guys who will help fill the lineup include freshmen Kevan Gentile (106) and Ali Capobianco (120).
"For the first time in my three years we're going to walk into our first dual meet with a full lineup and with some backups," said Albert. "That tells us we're doing something right with the program.
"I really feel that as a team we'll have at least a .500 record, which is a big step in the right direction for Jim Thorpe. Of course, I expect some guys like Ohl and Ruberto to move on to Regionals and hopefully states. That's the ultimate goal for those guys."