Numbers, expectations up for Bomber wrestlers
Members of the 2019 Palmerton wrestling team are, front from left, Daniel Lucykanish, Aaron Gardner, Shaun Shirk, Dennis Lombardi and Matt Lalik; middle, Dylan Shinsky, Jonathan Eckhart, Jeremy Mooney, Westin Horn, Shawn Gardner and Colin Mertz; back, James Silfies, Colton Stroup, Chris Lucykanish, Matt Garey-Hendricks, Aiden Melber and Ethan Page. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
In recent years, Palmerton’s high school wrestling dealt with the numbers issues that numerous other teams currently face, which would hinder their chances for producing success throughout the course of the season.
This year, however, head coach Justin Peterson benefits from an influx of interest in the sport, causing spirits to rise with anticipation.
“So far, It’s looking good in the early-going,” the sixth-year head coach said recently. “We had a good off-season, we had a lot of guys that were committed and every year that I’ve been here, at least, we seem to be getting more and more kids to do things for us in the off-season and in the summer and the fall.
“Our numbers are up, and this year we have 21 kids on the varsity roster, and that’s the most that I’ve had out for the team since I’ve been here. In the junior high program, that’s seventh and eighth grades, we have another 21 kids out for that team. So to have 42 kids in the program is really good numbers, especially for us, here at Palmerton.”
The lack of potential wrestlers in the lineup would cause for forfeits, as well as other potential pitfalls in the training process. But Peterson and his troop of assistants should be able to field a full lineup, barring injury.
“Team-wise, filling the lineup is always a big key for us and that’s typically the most important thing to start out,” Peterson said. “But what we have more of this season is more consistency throughout the lineup. We have more guys that have been around the program for a lot longer.”
Shawn Gardner, a returning senior and one of the team’s co-captains, echoed the optimism, saying, “On the roster, we have 21 kids and they’re spread out across the entire weight system. We have a really good chance at a full lineup this year and a lot of the guys are working really hard. They’re showing up every day and we can already see plenty of improvement in the newcomers.”
Fellow co-captain, and classmate, Matt Lalik added, “We’re looking for what every team is looking for as a goal and that’s a winning record. It’s been hard for us to do that the past couple of seasons with the numbers being low. But this season we have good numbers and we’re all working really hard in the practice room and putting in the time there.”
Lalik and Gardner both finished in sixth at districts a season ago and look to improve upon those results in 2020, while spearheading Peterson’s corps of returning talent that will look to improve on last season’s 4-9 record
Among the returnees joining Gardner (152-160lbs) and Lalik (160-170) are Dylan Gonyo (145-160), Gabe Ramos (113-120), Chris Lucykanish (182-195), Aidan Melber (170-182), along with new comer to the program, Dylan Shinsky (120-126), who is a transfer from Parkland.
With potential forfeits not looming as a threat, the fully-stocked roster looks to higher goals, including a return to the district duals for the first time since the 2016-17 season, — when this year’s seniors were freshmen in the Blue Bomber program.
Peterson’s optimism is felt throughout the team.
“Having the guys out with returning experience obviously helps out a lot and as a team,” Peterson said. “We’re hoping to be competing on the second day of district duals.
“That would put us in the top eight in the district. That would be awesome for us to be able to do and I think we’re in a realistic position to be able to do that.”