Northwestern grapplers set for challenge
Northwestern wrestling team members are, kneeling, from left, Blake Brunner, Jake Dellicker, Sebastian Pagan, Anthony Russo, Ben Griffith, Mason Brensinger, Harrison Bernhard and Eli Dellicker. Standing, coach Jim Moll, manager Shelby Tyson, Tyler Watson, Isaiah Johari, Ryan Fink, Justin Suranofsky, Donovan White, Ryan Haas, Jack Casciano, Ryan Haverkamp, Will Dellicker, a team manager and coach Eddie Keichel. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
There might not be a wrestling team in the area that has to replace as strong of a graduating class as the one Northwestern said goodbye to last year.
The Tigers had four state qualifiers last year, and all are gone, including state champ Caleb Clymer as well as two other seniors that were part of the starting line up.
“Replacing Caleb and Jackson [Bernhard] and Matt [Peters] and Colin [Rex], they’re tough to replace talent-wise,” said Northwestern head coach Jim Moll. “As far as work ethic and setting an example, we don’t have a void. Harrison Bernhard and Jake Dellicker are examples. Donovan White has been really the leader in the room so far this year. He really stepped up.”
Harrison Bernhard, a junior, went 23-13 last year and finished fourth at districts, and was ranked first in the area at 126.
Dellicker, who also finished the season at the top of the Time News final rankings at 106, went 28-11 as a sophomore last season and finished third at districts. He’ll wrestle at 120 this season.
He’ll be joined in the front of the lineup by the likes of returning sophomores Blake Brunner and Ben Griffith, who finished sixth at districts last season at 120.
Several incoming freshmen could also help in the lighter weights, including Eli Dellicker (113/108) and Mason Brensinger (113/120). And junior Anthony Russo (126), who battled through injuries during his freshman season and wrestled JV last year, could earn a spot in the lineup this season.
Harrison Bernhard and the middle of the lineup should be the Tigers’ strength this season.
That includes Will Dellicker, a sophomore who wrestled at 160 last year, and seniors White (132/138) and Ryan Haas (160/170). Haas comes back to the team after a two-year hiatus. He wrestled freshman year and in youth wrestling, but did not go out for the team the past two seasons. Freshman Sebastian Pagan (138) could also figure into the mix.
“We have big shoes to fill,” said Will Dellicker. “We lost four state qualifiers from last year. We’ve seen what it’s like to have a champion in the room. You can see what kind of work it takes to go that far.”
The upperweights are where the Tigers have little depth. Senior Hayden Bobbyn decided not to wrestle this season, leaving the heavyweight spot empty.
Juniors Ryan Havercamp and Tyler Watson wrestled at 170 and 185, respectively, last season. Watson took third place at districts a year ago.
Northwestern went 7-1 in Colonial League matches last year to earn the No. 2 seed in the league’s team tournament. They beat Wilson in the first round, but lost to league champ Saucon Valley in the title match, 37-24.
The Tigers made last year’s District 11 Class 2A tournament as the No. 3 seed, beating Panther Valley in their opening match before falling to No. 2 seed Wilson in the winner’s bracket semifinals. After wrestling back with wins over Tamaqua and Pen Argyl, Northwestern lost to Wilson again in the second-place match with a berth to the state tournament on the line.
The Tigers peaked during the individual postseason last year, finishing a half-point (166.5-166) behind Saucon Valley for the team title at the individual district tournament, while sending seven wrestlers to regionals. Moll was named District 11 Class 2A Coach of the Year at districts.
Harrison Bernhard, the brother of two-time state qualifiers Quentin and Jackson, is aiming for himself and his team to peak again in the 2018-19 postseason.
“Both my brothers were state qualifiers twice, so four times now,” he said. “Going out [to Hershey for state finals] makes me want to be out there. When I see my brothers wrestling, I just want to be in their spot one day.”