Big numbers, solid nucleus for Indians wrestlers
Lehighton wrestling team members are, front row, from left, Tyler Unangst-Williams, Jason Roeder, Mason Ferguson, Lukas Ferguson, Nicholas Ziegenfuss, JJ Marrero, Michael Rodriguez, Cody Engle and Jon Ahner. Middle row, Ethan Malkowicz, Darrell Hull, James Salerno, Steven Fritzinger, Alex Ziegenfuss, Brett Gasker, Lucas Sangiuliano, Colby Nichols and Riley Judge. Back row, Lamar Howell, Richard Fronheiser, Gauge Hartney, Michael Yeakel, Ricky Houser and Nolan Stein. PHOTO COURTESY OF RICH SMITH
The Lehighton wrestling program is definitely trending up.
The 2018-19 season saw the Indians go 11-8, advance to the championship semifinals at District Duals, and have two wrestlers qualify for states.
But Lehighton coach Floyd Brown thinks even bigger things could be on the horizon.
Brown’s optimism starts with the fact that the Indians currently have 30 wrestlers on the roster — after finishing last season with just 14.
“This is the most wrestlers I can remember on the high school team in a very, very long time,” said Brown, who is a veteran of two stints as the Lehighton coach. “We have a great mix of experience and newcomers. I’m really excited about where the program is heading.”
Brown said the reason for the strong turnout at the high school level is easy to pinpoint.
“Kudos to our booster club program,” he said. “They have been doing a great job there for years, and it’s starting to pay off.
“Not only do we have 30 high school wrestlers, but we have 21 more in the junior high program in seventh and eighth grade. All of those numbers go back to the outstanding job our booster club is doing to support the sports, and get kids interested in wrestling.”
But numbers aren’t the only reason for Brown’s excitement.
“We have five guys coming back this year who had at least 19 wins last year — Alex Ziegenfuss (28), Lucas Sangiuliano (25), Richard Fronheiser (24), Lukas Ferguson (19) and Steven Fritzinger (19) — and another kid in Brett Gasker who had 20 wins the year before but missed all last season with an injury,” Brown said. “That’s a great nucleus to build the team around.”
Despite the huge number of wrestlers, there is one weight class that the Indians are still trying to fill, as Brown isn’t positive that they will have a 106-pounder. But Lehighton will have two or more wrestlers at almost every other weight class.
At 113, Mason Ferguson (11-20 record last season) and newcomer James Solerno are in the mix.
At 120, it will be Lukas Ferguson (19-11) and freshman Nick Ziegenfus.
At 126, David Miller (11-20), Lukas Ferguson, Ziegenfuss and Christian Salerno will all be competing for the slot.
At 132, it will be Fritzinger (19-16), Ethan Malkowicz or Layla Bravo. Bravo is a freshman and the only female on the team.
At 138, Sangiuliano (25-14) is back, along with Yihiro Marrero.
At 145, Cody Engle and Mike Rodriguez are competing.
At 152, it will be either John Ahner, Tyler Unangst-Williams or Rodriguez.
At 160, Nolan Stein and Arner are the candidates.
At 170, it will be Fronheiser (24-14), with Colby Nichols also available.
At 182, it will be Austin Kern.
At 195, Alex Ziegenfuss (28-15) and Parkland transfer Carter Shaneef are battling.
At 220, Gasker and Gauge Hartner are the candidates.
At 285, the Indians will have six wrestlers competing for the starting spot — Mike Yeakel, Richard Houser, Darrell Hull, Jason Roeder, Riley Judge and Lamar Howell.
“We should have some nice competition for lineup spots, which will help us improve as a team,” said Brown. “Team-wise, we want to be competitive in both the Schuylkill League and District 11, and I think we can do that.
“Individually, we have two returnees (Alex Ziegenfuss, third place; Sangiuliano, fourth place) who finished in the top four in districts last year, and I think we have a few more kids who have a chance to join them this year.
“I’m excited about the season.”