PV grapplers expect success this season
Photo by Bob Ford Panther Valley wresting team members include, front row, from left, Jesse Thomas, Matt Buss, Michael Lazar, Darren Goida, Lenny Ogozalek, Tristan Strunk. Middle: Dylan Moyer, Hunter Davidyock, Zach Glassic, Grant Lorkowski, Collin Heydt, Devon Herman and Troy Margerum. Back: Czar Founds, Pat Iezonni, Zach Turner, Richard Nace, Lucas Mika and Rian Shubeck.
Tim Robb has coached the Panther Valley wrestling team for the past 21 seasons.
That makes him more experienced than many of his peers.
But it doesn't make him any less enthusiastic than a rookie coach.
The Panthers are coming off a successful season that saw them in the mix for a Schuylkill League title, qualify for and then win a match at District Duals, and have two individuals grab District 11 Class AA silver medals.
The opportunity to build on those accomplishments has Robb very optimistic heading into this season.
"Our goals are to win the Schuylkill League title and get to District 11 Duals final," he said.
Robb admits that the goals are lofty and might even be considered stretches, but he doesn't want his team to be content settling for anything less.
"That's why they are goals," said Robb. "I see us contending for the Schuylkill League Division I title, but Blue Mountain and North Schuylkill will be favored. It's a very tough division this year. Pottsville, Pine Grove and Tri Valley will also be very tough.
Making a mark at districts will be even tougher with powerful Bethlehem Catholic, several tough Colonial League teams, and Schuylkill League rivals all in the mix.
But Robb isn't backing down from his goals.
"We have a very hard working group of kids," he said. "Several of them had good off seasons and should be dramatically improved. We are anxiously optimistic."
Leading the way for the Panthers will be Lenny Ogozalek (113/120), Richard Nase (195) and Rian Shubeck (220) a trio of returnees who had outstanding seasons a year ago.
Ogozalek had a 31-9 record before being forced to default at the District 11 tournament.
"Len looks tough," said Robb. "He's worked hard and has the potential to be a state qualifier."
Nase was 28-13 a year ago.
"Richard was a District 11 runner up last season and looks really good," said Robb. "I'm expecting him to qualify for states."
Shubeck, who is only a junior, had a team-best 35-5 record.
"Rian was a District 11 runner up at heavyweight last year," said Robb. "He comes into this season stronger and lighter than last year. I expect him to qualify for states."
But Panther Valley's' depth behind its "big three" is what gives Robb hope for team success.
The Panthers have four other wrestlers who the head coach feels can be District 11 medal contenders.
The group includes Dylan Moyer (170/182), Hunter Davidyock (138/145), Matt Buss (160/170) and Darren Goida (113/120).
Rounding out the Panther Valley roster are Mike Lazar (106/113), Jesse Thomas (132), Zach Turner (138), Grant Lorkowski (152/160), Czar Founds (152/160), Pat Iezonni (152/160), Tristan Strunk (160/170), Nate Hrebek (195/220), Troy Margerum (195/220), Lucas Mika (HWT).
Robb said the Panthers could find out early how they stack up against some pretty good competition.
"Our first tourney (Dec. 7) will be tough with us wrestling three AAA schools (Conestoga Valley, Dieruff, and Upper Moreland) and then Jim Thorpe," he explained. "That will be very telling for us on how we will respond."
One thing is for sure, no one is more excited than Robb to see how the tournament and the season plays out.