New coach, same lofty goals for matmen
ron gower/times news Comprising the wrestling team at Pleasant Valley High School are, front row, from left, Austin Bellemore, Andrew Tichy, Jonathan Klein. Middle row, Garrett Gouger, Nathan Yoonker, Anthony McCue, Kenneth Yanovich,Brannan Bale, Jason Jacobi, Tahir Ashfaq. Back row, coach Chris Merwine, Jarrett McConnell, Trent Thomas, Will Focht, Ahmad Curtis, Matt Robinson, Nick Resper, Brady Keefe, Nicholas Ammirato, Ariel Meja, coach Justin Micklos, coach Buddy Gouger.
In some ways, the Pleasant Valley wrestling program will be starting over with new head coach Justin Micklos.
But it certainly won't be like starting from scratch.
Micklos inherits a roster that features three-time state qualifier Kenny Yanovich and a wealth of young talent that should ensure there's not much of a drop off from last year's 14-8 squad.
"Our expectations are high and we expect nothing less than winning the Mountain Valley Conference (title)," Micklos said. "We're going to go after it. We have a great bunch of guys coming up that are all young, which is a benefit to us. As long as they work hard, there's no reason why we can't compete."
The Bears will need some of that young talent to step up and replace Jalil Aldridge (160), Dominick Ammirato (220), Mike Benner (285), Hunter Deihl (195), James Felipa (120), Joshua Perry (138) and Joell Toledo (145), who went a combined 145-69 last season.
The Bears will be counting on sophomore Garrett Gouger (132) and former junior varsity standouts Ahmad Curtis (285), Trent Thomas (170) and Pius X transfer Andrew Tichy to fill the voids left by their predecessors.
Pleasant Valley will certainly lean on the more experienced Yanovich, who went 35-6 a year ago at 113 pounds and finished second to Parkland's Ethan Lizak at both regionals and districts.
As a senior, Yanovich will be counted on to do more on and off the mat for an unproven squad with several uncertainties.
"I think I've definitely taken on more of a leadership role as a captain," Yanovich said. "I'm trying to get everyone to work harder and understand where they need to be for the end of the year. I'm just hoping to teach some of the younger kids what the sport is all about and how it can help them later in life."
While this might be Micklos' first year as the varsity head coach, he does have experience with several members of the team from his previous stint as the Pleasant Valley junior high coach. That prior knowledge is something that should smooth the transition for both Micklos and the team this season.
"I'm familiar with a lot of the kids, which is a great thing," the coach said. "I know their work ethic; I know what they can do and what they can't do, and that's a benefit.
"I have big shoes to fill, with all of the tradition here and the success that this program has had, but I'm very excited to get started. We have our first tournament at Saucon Valley this weekend and I can't wait to see how we do."
With several school records on the horizon, Yanovich, is just as excited as his coach to get his final season underway.
"I'm expecting to place high at states," said Yanovich, who enters the year with a career record of 112-24. "But I would also really like to get the school record for wins and pins, especially as a senior.
"I'm just hoping to use all of my past experience to my advantage during matches and hopefully that leads to a successful year."