Tamaqua places four on TN area wrestling first team
BY PATRICK MATSINKO
Bronson Strouse’s swan song ended with his first state medal.
The Tamaqua senior put a stamp on a remarkable career with a sixth-place finish in his third and final trip to Hershey.
Strouse was joined on the podium inside the Giant Center by teammate Nate Wickersham, who showed all the grit and determination that makes the sport so special to grab an eighth-place medal.
It was a special season for the Blue Raiders, who saw two wrestlers medal at states for the first time since Matt Benza (AA, 125, fifth) and Andy Breiner (AA, 152, third) in 2000. The pair also earned the school’s first state medals since Tanner McHugh (AA, 132, sixth) in 2017.
Tamaqua has had at least one state qualifier in each of the past seven seasons, the longest active streak among area teams.
Strouse has flourished under Blue Raiders head coach Jim McCabe, who returned to the program before the start of the 2017-18 season after leading the team from 2000-01 through 2011-12. Strouse is a two-time district champion, won his first regional title this year and collected his first state medal. He also earned his second Schuylkill League title this season after winning his first as a sophomore.
While Strouse closed the book on his scholastic wrestling career, Wickersham added another chapter with a stellar junior season.
Strouse and Wickersham highlight a group of four Blue Raiders on the Times News All-Star Wrestling First Team, which also includes junior Aaron Coccio and senior Caleb Sell, who both advanced to the Southeast Regional Tournament this past season.
Wickersham will try to close out his career with a third trip and second state medal next season, one that could once again see multiple Tamaqua wrestlers on the mats in Hershey.
“He’s been a leader in the wrestling room since his freshman year,” McCabe said of Wickersham. “A lot of the juniors, soon to be seniors, have been very good listeners and very good leaders as well.
“Last year’s graduating class was small, and this year’s graduating class is small. Next year, we’re going to have a ton of seniors on that team, and he’s definitely someone that will be a leader on the team. The kids look to him for advice on the mat, and they listen to him. I expect it to be a fun year. We’re going to go into it, and continue to practice hard.”
Northern Lehigh junior Josh Schaffer made his first trip to the state tournament this season, joining brother Jason, who also qualified in 2017.
The junior was second at districts and fourth at regionals this season.
Sophomore Trevor Amorim gives the Bulldogs two wrestlers on the first team. Amorim enjoyed a breakout season, reaching the regional tournament for the first time after a runner-up finish at districts.
The remainder of the first team all-stars are comprised of Jim Thorpe’s Will Schwartz and Derek Hunter; Lehighton’s Lucas Sangiuliano and Richard Fronheiser; Northwestern’s Harrison Bernhard and Ryan Haverkamp; and Pleasant Valley’s Alex Womack and Chris Frable.
The 14 selections for the first team are made from any weight class. They are listed below in alphabetical order, followed by the second team all-stars.
Times News Wrestling All-Stars
Trevor Amorim, Northern Lehigh, So. (20-13)
• Was a District 11 Class 2A runner-up at 145 pounds
• Qualified for the Southeast Regional Tournament for the first time
• Placed fifth at the season-opening Sam Lovello Classic
• Placed seventh at the Coal Cracker Tournament
QUOTABLE: “Trevor improved every aspect of his wrestling during the 2019-2020 season, and comparing this season with last season’s statistics solidifies that statement. We spoke at the conclusion of the season, and I mentioned that competing in the district finals was a not only a good accomplishment for Trevor, but a big statement as well for a sophomore wrestler. It let the rest of the district know that he is here to stay for the next two years, and he is going to be one of the wrestlers with a target on their back. It is great to be recognized, and it makes you feel good at the time, but I think Trevor will soon learn the most important thing that comes from that recognition is knowing that your training is now going to have to pick up to exceed that level of success because of the target on your back. I am excited to see him back on the mat, and see the level of intensity increase in his training. Overall, Trevor is good kid, good athlete, and a pleasure to have on our team. He is a kid that we are always messing with, but knows when it is time to joke around and when it is time for business. I am excited to see what he earns for himself in the future, and look forward to spending the next two seasons in his corner,” Northern Lehigh head coach Scott Snyder.
Harrison Bernhard, Northwestern, Sr. (31-11)
• Reached 100 career victories in a second-round consolation match at the Southeast Regional Tournament. Finished his career with a record of 100-50
• Placed fourth at 145 pounds at districts to qualify for regionals
• Recorded a second-place finish at the Zephyr Mat Classic
• Finished fifth at the Bethlehem Holiday Wrestling Classic
• Was second at the Rough Rider Tournament
• Was as a second-team all star last season
QUOTABLE: “Harrison has been a lot of fun to coach. He is the type of kid you want to have on the team. He’s a hard worker, great student (No. 1 in his class), leads by example, talented, knows when it’s ok to joke around and when it’s not, and displays great sportsmanship. I am definitely going to miss having him in the room. He embodied everything we want in a Northwestern Lehigh wrestler,” Northwestern head coach Jim Moll.
Aaron Coccio, Tamaqua, Jr. (26-16)
• Went 1-2 in his second appearance at the Southeast Regional Tournament
• Was fourth at districts at 138 pounds to reach the regional tournament
• Grabbed a third-place finish at the always-expanding Coal Cracker Tournament in late January
• Finished second at the Schuylkill League Tournament
• Placed second at the season-opening Darren Klingerman Invitational
QUOTABLE: “He is one heck of a tough wrestler. He just knows how to win. He had his share of losses this year, but they really didn’t upset him. At certain points, with some of the injuries we had and other times where people were out of the lineup, he was wrestling 152 for us, and wrestling state-caliber kids, and wrestling tight matches. He came off the mat, and if he lost, he did everything he could to get ready for his next match and go at it again. And that’s what I like about Aaron. He works, does what he needs to do, and then he moves forward. I hope I see him a ton this summer once we get cleared to get back in school, and get him to that state tournament, because he has the ability to get there,” Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe.
Chris Frable, Pleasant Valley, Jr. (22-6)
• Was close to advancing to the medal round at districts in the Class 3A, losing in the consolation quarters at 195 pounds
• Placed first at the South Williamsport Tournament in early January
• Also earned a title at the Iron Hammer Invitational a week later
QUOTABLE: “Chris is another good wrestler in our room. He is naturally talented. As a junior this year he really came into his own. He has made great strides since last season. I am excited to have him back next year to see what he can do as a senior. If he keeps pushing himself, he will be able to achieve great things,” Pleasant Valley head coach Justin Micklos.
Richard Fronheiser, Lehighton, Jr. (24-8)
• Finished fourth at districts wrestling at 170 pounds to qualify for regionals
• Was fifth at the Coal Cracker Tournament
• Went 5-0 at the Indian Duals, with all five victories coming by fall
• Placed second at the Sam Lovello Classic to open the season
QUOTABLE: “Richard has been a three-year starter, and really made big improvements this year. He stood out as one of our leaders on the mat. Richard is one of the hardest workers in the room, one of our most dedicated in the offseason, and has been a pleasure to coach thus far. We are looking for big things from him next season,” Lehighton head coach Floyd Brown.
Ryan Haverkamp, Northwestern, Sr. (24-14)
• A fourth-place finish at 182 pounds at districts helped him qualify for the regional tournament
• Placed sixth at the Coal Cracker Tournament
• Was fourth at the X-Caliber Tournament
• Finished his career with a record of 58-36
• The senior was a second-team all star last season
QUOTABLE: “Ryan was by far our most aggressive wrestler. If he is going to lose a match. it wasn’t because he (was) scared (to) go out and mix it up with a guy. He was never really out of a match, no matter how crazy the match was. That was due to his willingness to go out compete without fear of failure. It was that mindset that allowed him to have to district tournament he had, and beat guys that were seeded higher and guys he lost to earlier in the year. He had a unique season as a senior. He was a half-day of school (student), with a half-day (sometimes a full day) of work, and wrestling on top of that. So he sacrificed some practice time to keep the job he got through LCTI. He did a great job of time management and communicating with the coaching staff and his boss throughout the season. It showed a lot of maturity,” Northwestern head coach Jim Moll.
Derek Hunter, Jim Thorpe, Jr. (32-4)
• A state qualifier a year ago, Hunter missed out on a return trip to Hershey this season.
• Placed fifth at districts at 285 pounds
• Defeated TN/LVHN Wrestler of the Year Bronson Strouse to capture his second straight title at the Coal Cracker Tournament, one of his two victories over the Tamaqua standout this season
• Was crowned champion at the Rough Rider Invitational and Jim Thorpe Christmas Tournament
• Went 5-0 at the Indian Duals
QUOTABLE: “Derek was impressive for much of the entire season. His record alone speaks for itself. I was proud to see him overcome some hurdles in his wrestling abilities as well as his confidence. Beating Tamaqua’s Bronson Strauss twice was huge for him. Bronson is a great wrestler who is well coached. I began to see Derek’s knowledge of technique in our practice room and on the bench during competition. He coaches his teammates up, and I look forward to that type of leadership going into next season. While the ultimate goal of returning to states and medaling did not happen in his junior year, we’re excited for another opportunity in his final season as a senior,” Jim Thorpe head coach Shawn Albert.
Lucas Sangiuliano, Lehighton, Sr. (24-17)
• Finished fourth wrestling at 132 pounds at the district tournament to qualify for regionals for the third time
• Recorded a fifth-place finish at the Schuylkill League Tournament
• Went 4-1 at Lehighton’s Indian Duals
• Placed sixth at Jim Thorpe’s Christmas Tournament
• Was sixth at the Sam Lovello Classic
QUOTABLE: “Lucas has been a four-year starter for us, and one of our senior leaders this past season. It has been great to coach him over the past four years. He has been a staple in our lineup. Lucas was a district finalist as a freshman, a three-time district place winner and a three time regional qualifier for us. Lucas finished his high school career with 89 wins. As a multisport athlete, his commitment to our team over the past four years has been super.” Lehighton head coach Floyd Brown.
Josh Schaffer, Northern Lehigh, Jr. (32-8)
• His stellar postseason ended with his first trip to states
• Went 1-2 at the state tournament, making it to the second day
• A fourth-place finish at the Southeast Regional Tournament secured his spot in Hershey
• Battled TN/LVHN Wrestler of the Year Bronson Strouse in the Class 2A 285-pound final before dropping a 7-1 decision
• Placed fifth at the Sam Lovello Classic
• Was fifth at the Coal Cracker Tournament
QUOTABLE: “Almost all things I said for Trevor, I could have said for Josh. I think Josh was a little slower to get going this season, but that’s ok because he peaked at the perfect time, and earned a chance to compete for a state medal in Hershey. Josh managed to cut down on mental errors, and eliminated some bad habits during the second half of his season, which really proved to be the difference between winning and losing a number of matches. I also think once he started to trust his conditioning and became more patient, it really gave him an edge against a lot of those larger opponents. He had quite a few wins deep in overtime during the second half of the season. I think experience is going to be the big thing Josh brings to the table next season at the 285-pound weight class. He will be a senior, he knows what it feels like winning a big match in front of a crowd, and he knows what it is like to wrestle at the state tournament. Most importantly, he knows what he has to do to exceed that level of success. Josh is also an extremely hard worker in the wrestling room. Josh and Jason Hunter go to war in the “fat mans” corner of the wrestling room every single day. I am very proud of Josh’s accomplishments this season, but am very hopeful that the combination of mental improvements, experience, and hard work translate to a state medal,” Northern Lehigh head coach Scott Snyder.
William Schwartz, Jim Thorpe, Sr. (28-12)
• A third-place finish at districts helped Schwartz punch his ticket to regionals at 113 pounds
• Finished eighth at the Coal Cracker Tournament
• Captured his first Schuylkill League title this season
• Went 4-1 at Lehighton’s Indian Duals
• Was a runner-up at Jim Thorpe’s Christmas Tournament
• Placed fourth at the Rough Rider Invitational
QUOTABLE: “Will Schwartz had a great season earning a Schuylkill League championship, as well as improving his placement to third place at the district tournament. He is a two-time southeast regional qualifier. It’s always a great thing to watch when your athlete’s hard work pays off, and that was the case for Will. He has always been a great kid to coach because he encompasses everything you want out of an athlete. Will is disciplined, hard working, committed, and extremely respectful. Our philosophy is that we want fighters on our team in that they never give up, and they never back down from a challenge. Will was a fighter, and will always be a fighter on the mat and in life. He will be greatly missed,” Jim Thorpe head coach Shawn Albert.
Caleb Sell, Tamaqua, Sr. (29-13)
• Produced a third-place finish at 152 pounds at districts to advance to the regional tournament
• Was a runner-up at the Schuylkill League Tournament
• Finished fourth at the Darren Klingerman Invitational
QUOTABLE: “I’m so happy for Caleb. He has put in so much time since I’ve come back, and I know he did a lot with (previous Tamaqua head coach) Jon Mashack as well. It was just nice to finally see him, with all the work he puts in during the season and in the offseason, take third at districts and move on to regionals. When it was all said and done, he was upset after the regional tournament (and not making it to states), but I said to him, ‘look at it this way, you qualified yourself for the Hall of Fame at Tamaqua because you’re a regional qualifier’. That’s an accomplishment in itself, because not many people make it to regionals,” Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe.
Bronson Strouse, Tamaqua, Sr. (38-6)
• Ended his career with his first state medal, placing sixth at 285 pounds
• Was named Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Wrestler of the Year for the 2019-20 season, finishing his career with 143 victories
• Blasted Tussey Mountain’s Matt Watkins in 0:28 to move into the state quarters. The senior edged Northeast Bradford’s Dawson Brown 3-2 in the ultimate tiebreaker period of overtime to reach the semis.
• With his sixth-place finish at 285 pounds, he became the first Tamaqua wrestler to earn a state medal wrestling in the heavyweight division.
• Earned his second straight District 11 title and first Southeast Regional championship this season?
• Was a runner-up at the Coal Cracker Tournament
• Won his second Schuylkill League crown this year
• Opened the season with a title at the Darren Klingerman Invitational
• Will play football at Bloomsburg University
QUOTABLE: “I think in the beginning, if he had a question, he wanted the answer from one of the coaches to solve it for him. He wanted the coaches to solve his problems on the mat. And one of the ways he matured is that he stopped asking, ‘Well, when a guy does this, what should I do?’ We can’t answer every question - you just have to go on the mat and adjust to the things that happen. And I think that was one way that he grew up. He certainly had to grow up differently than the average person. I think that he has been extremely willing to listen to any of the coaches on my staff to help him to mature where he wants to be. I try to keep in touch, and I wish every one of my wrestlers success. They can always feel free to contact me if they need any help. But I think he’s on the right path. I think he’s going to be just fine,” Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe.
Nate Wickersham, Tamaqua, Jr. (37-13)
• Finished his second straight trip to Hershey with an eighth-place finish at 182 pounds for his first state medal
• Survived three brutal consolation matches to secure his spot on the podium. The junior started his run with a 6-5 win over Kane’s Cameron Whisner, before topping Ian Eckenrode 10-9. A 5-3 decision in sudden victory overtime over Bishop McDevitt’s Riley Robell, who pinned him a week earlier at regionals, put him on the medal stand.
• Was third at the District 11 Tournament
• Finished fifth at the Southeast Regional to advance to states
• Placed second at the Darren Klingerman Invitational, Schuylkill League and Coal Cracker tournaments
• Has placed third at districts and fifth at regionals in each of the past two seasons.
QUOTABLE: “I think Nate bought into trusting the process, and not so much the outcome. From Day 1, he’s never really gone on the mat nervous if he was going to win or lose. And through that process - it was a natural process for him getting to place at states this year, because he was doing everything right from the beginning. He struggled a little bit as a freshman, but came in his sophomore year and had a very strong season and fell just short at states. Any one of his losses this year were to state caliber wrestlers, and they were all close matches. It never bothered him that he lost those close matches, because he won those really tight matches, especially at states, where, I think in the blood round, I think all the kids that he had wrestled that he had lost to, lost in that round, and he won. He can’t assume that just because he placed this year, that next year he’s going to place or place higher. He has to continue to work hard,” Tamaqua head coach Jim McCabe.
Alex Womack, Pleasant Valley, Sr. (25-5)
• Placed sixth at districts in Class 3A wrestling at 160 pounds, just missing the final regional qualifying spot. He was seeded third.
• Was first at the Iron Hammer Invitational
• Finished second at the South Williamsport Tournament
• Was a second-team all star a year ago
QUOTABLE: “Alex is one of those kids every coach wishes he has. He is a natural leader in the wrestling room. Along with that he is a very coachable wrestler. It has been an absolute pleasure to coach him. He had a great senior year, leading our team with the most wins, and the most pins,” Pleasant Valley head coach Justin Micklos.
Mason Brensinger, Northwestern, So.; Kendall Herron, Jim Thorpe, Sr.; Brett Gasker, Lehighton, Sr.; Brenden Smay, Northern Lehigh, Jr.; Dennis Lombardi, Palmerton, So.; Nicholas Zeigenfuss, Lehighton, Fr.; Eli Dellicker, Northwestern, So.; Lucas Miller, Northwestern, Fr.; Shawn Gardner, Palmerton, Sr.; Carson Krell, Tamaqua, Jr.; Alex Zeigenfuss, Lehighton, Sr.; James Syracuse, Pleasant Valley, So.; Matt Lalik, Palmerton, Sr.; Jared Newhall, Jim Thorpe, So.