Ortiz will be Northwestern's leading man
MIKE HAINES/TIMES NEWS Members of the Northwestern wrestling team are, front row, from left, David VanBlargan, Quintin Bernhard, Jarrett White, Jason Hottinger and Tony DiCataldo. Second row, Hanny Awadalah, Eddie Parrish, Joe Colucci, Cole Moyer and Anthony Fillis. Back row, Jacob Murray, Alex Russo, Mitch evans, Matt Dunnway, Andrew Sorensen and Michael Ortiz.
Northwestern's wrestling program is in the midst of a rebuilding process that could take some time.
The Tigers, who forfeited six bouts per match last year, will have more weight classes filled and are looking for a few more wins this season.
"I think we can win a lot more than last year," said senior Mike Ortiz.
The Tigers went 1-7 in the Colonial League last year. There's been a decline in team wins over the past four years, but the team still produces some solid postseason performers each year.
Last year, the Tigers had two district champs, three regional qualifiers and one state place winner. But three of the team's four district place winners from last year have graduated in Levi Veppert, David Tirpak and Ethan Keichel.
Ortiz, a district champ last year, injured his knee at regionals. He recovered, but reinjured it in summer.
He won 25 bouts in each of the last two seasons, including taking third place at districts and sixth at regionals as a sophomore.
Ortiz, who had surgery to repair last winter's knee injury, opted not to have another surgery until the season is over. He'll wrestle this season with a torn ACL, lateral meniscus and medial meniscus.
It will be difficult, but having surgery any sooner wasn't something he seriously considered.
"That would have ended my season," Ortiz said. "Not an option.
"The pain is always going to be there. The thought of going 13 or 14 years and having only one more chance at your goal outweighs the pain."
Despite the injury, head coach Jim Moll knows Ortiz can still reach all of his goals.
"His goal is still top of the podium at Hershey," said Moll. "I think it's possible for him, even with the brace on. He's going to have to learn to do some things a little differently. He's such a naturally talented wrestler. I think he will adapt pretty easily."
One other senior returns to Northwestern's starting line up in Mitchell Evans. He went 15-12 last year, just his fourth year participating in the sport.
"The improvement from then to now is really remarkable," said Moll. "I feel like I could give him our most improved award every season."
Three sophomores return after taking their lumps on last year's varsity team.
Anthony Fillis, who will wrestle at 145 or 152, worked with former state champ and Northwestern graduate Scott Clymer over the summer and is ready for a big year.
Also returning from last year's line up are sophomores Cole Moyer (138) and Alex Russo (170).
Sophomore Zach Hunsberger (145/152) and freshmen Jarrett White (106/113) and Quintin Bernahrd (106/113) will be able to help the team this year.
Other varsity wrestlers who could help fill spots in the line up include freshmen Jason Hottinger (120), David VanBlargan (106), Tony DiCataldo (106), Andrew Sorensen (138), Joe Colucci (132) and Jacob Murray (195).
With just two seniors and no juniors, the Tigers will send a very inexperienced line up onto the mat. But it's a line up that could win some matches.
"The lightweights are kids I've been going to tournaments with four 14 years since I a kid," said Ortiz. "We could definitely win more matches with those kids on our team."