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PV wrestlers optimistic, set sights on improvement

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    Members of the Panther Valley wrestling team this season include, front row from left, Johnny Byers, Ethan Malaska, Gage Breiner; back row, De’Antay Alston, Bryan Kraps, Alex Moyer, Eric Moyer and Spencer Skoutelas-Kern. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published December 03. 2019 01:22PM

Excitement is once again surrounding the Panther Valley wrestling program after a down year in 2018-19.

Numbers were the issue last season as the Panthers (2-15) weren’t able to fill their lineup, but some key returnees and a host of new faces hope to change all that this season.

“Numbers-wise, we’re in a much better place, and you can see the impact it’s having in the room. We’ll be able to fill our whole lineup this year,” said Panther Valley head coach Zane Bachert. “Our first week of practice went really well; we have our wrestlers now competing and practicing against athletes in their own weight class, which we weren’t really able to do last season at all.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere this year and we’ve already been able to do so much more.”

The Panthers will be counting on three key returnees to anchor their lineup. Eric Moyer, at 160 pounds, returns after a 22-19 season in which he placed sixth at the Schuylkill League tournament. De’Antay Alston, at 195, will return from injury after placing third at Junior Varsity districts and is expected to be a breakout candidate for the Panthers this season. Heavyweight Sincere Flamer will also return after putting together a nice campaign in 2018-19, going 15-5.

“After going 2-15 last year, I think it’s unrealistic to say we’re going to come out and go undefeated and win the league, but I think we can really surprise some people with the wrestlers we have coming back, and with some of the new wrestlers that have come back to the program,” said Bachert. “We have some talented wrestlers that have taken a year or a few years off and are now back, and I think that is really going to help us. We have a good mixture of experience and new wrestlers.”

One thing is for certain about the Panthers this season, and that is there is plenty of competition going on to crack the starting lineup.

In the lighter weight classes, Kasey Ansbach gets the nod at 106, while Hailey Duncan will step into the 113-pound spot. After a year off, Gage Breiner will wrestle at 120. Ethan Malaska returns at 126 after gaining some valuable experience last season. Bryan Krapf is another breakout candidate for the Panthers at 132 after gaining some big wins a season ago. Lamar Easley and Jacob Shelton will battle for the 138-pound spot.

In the middle weight classes, Jonathan Byers and Josh Napolitano will battle at 145, while Alex Moyer will return at 152 after an injury kept him out last season. Moyer is expected to come back and make an impact for the Panthers. Brendan Allen will also try to come in and compete for some varsity time at 152. Eric Moyer will hold down 160, while Bryan Collado will be making his debut at 170.

In the upper weight classes, Dustin Stevens will be at 182, Alston at 195, talented youngster Jordan McColgan at 220, and Flamer will round out the lineup at heavyweight.

“I think we can really do some damage in our middle and upper weights, and I think we can compete and be a .500 team,” Bachert said. “I just like the attitude the kids have right now and I like the toughness. That’s something we needed to change from last season, and it’s been great so far.”

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