Robb helps wrestling tourney grow at PV
Former Panther Valley wrestling coach Tim Robb (center) has stayed involved in the sport. One of Robb’s biggest committments is helping the Coal Cracker Tournament continue to grow. RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Coaching might not be on Tim Robb’s schedule anymore.
But wrestling still very much is.
After stepping down as Panther Valley’s head coach a year ago, Robb has remained involved with the sport in a variety of ways.
During his time as the Panthers’ mentor, Robb was instrumental in helping to grow two premier events – the Anthracite Duals and the Coal Cracker Tournament – that were held at PV each January. The latter has grown into one of the premier tournaments in the region, with a who’s who of talent hitting the mats for two days of wrestling that produces a postseason feel.
The 2019 edition of the 10th annual two-day event took place this past Friday and Saturday and featured a record number of teams.
Robb couldn’t have been happier to be a part of it.
“It was fun. I enjoy it, I still love wrestling,” he said. “It’s hard to commit all the time that it takes to coach, so something like this gives me the chance to stay around wrestling, stay around Panther Valley. And it’s something I helped grow, so it’s hard for me to walk away from it. And everybody wanted to come back.”
So did Robb, who worked with Panther Valley Athletic Director Kristin Black to still help run both tournaments.
With a coaching career that has spanned over two decades, Robb has made connections and built relationships that are invaluable, tools that have taken pressure off first-year Panthers’ mentor Zane Bachert.
“It’s great to have Tim,” said Bachert. “These are big things. I had never even been at this tournament, either of them, really because of being at the junior high level; we usually had stuff going on these weekends. And he said the he and Dan Heaney (Jim Thorpe assistant coach) were going to help run it, and I said ‘yeah, if you guys are willing to help run it, definitely . I know this is a big tournament, it has a very good reputation.’”
“Carlisle was here this year. We went to their tournament, and as soon as I mentioned it, they said ‘don’t you hold the Coal Cracker?’ I was a little taken aback. They said they wanted to come last year, but it was too full, too late, and they asked if they could come this year, so I told them I would hook them up with our tournament director. It’s awesome. They came, they complimented us on the tournament, said they enjoyed it, and we’re glad to see new teams coming.”
Bachert noted the tournament is also the program’s main fundraiser of the year, something that has already paid dividends.
“It’s such a great tournament, and it has helped our team a lot,” said Bachert. “A lot of teams run these big tournaments to help them. A small-school setting like this, having such a big tournament, is amazing.
“We got new singlets this year with some extra money we had left over from last year after we covered what we needed to. Our singlets were worn out, and I asked if we could do it. Having some extra money and being able to do it was awesome, especially for a small school like this.”
Using the high school and intermediate schools to hold the two days of competition, which also includes a JV tournament, is a team effort.
“Most of the table workers are kids that came back from past years,” said Bachert. “The booster club, with parents coming and helping, and my mom is even involved. We really try to make it a family thing. And that’s what we’re trying to build. We love this tournament. It helps bring everyone together. Even Tamaqua parents helped with donating food for us, and people that we know from the area were happy to help us out. The camaraderie is awesome.
“The JROTC program here helped out running our stand because we’re low on parents this year, and they’re happy to step in and help us out. So I’m thankful for the community for coming together , and the community really does pull together to support these teams, all of our teams in the school, and it’s great to see that they’re willing to do that.”
Robb echoed those sentiments.
“The school gives me the run. They’re awesome, Kristin and Joe Gunnels (Panther Valley principal),” said Robb. “Everybody works together on it, 100 percent. And the kids are awesome. Everybody is helpful.”
Robb has crafted an event that mimics what wrestlers will see in the postseason, which is less than a month away.
“The format is very similar to districts where it’s a two-day (event),” said Robb. “I borrowed the format from Penn Manor; I think we do a little better than they do because we changed how the JV tournament runs.
“You get here, and the JVs are down there (in the high school, and they’re coming up with medals. We had 24 weight classes down there; eight kids in a weight class. It was good.”
While the event’s layout is derived from other tournaments, its hardware certainly is not.
“If it’s just one more medal, it’s one more medal, honestly. The medals are great,” said Robb. “To want the belt at certain tournaments, or the hammer, ours is the coal head. I’ve had coaches come up and say his kid won it and other kids were mad because they wanted it. They love it. It’s a cool-looking thing. It’s different; it’s not like every other one.”
But Robb’s fingerprints are all over it.
While his role is different, Robb’s impact on the tournament – and Panther Valley wrestling – is unmistakable.
“I want to keep growing wrestling,” Robb said.
If this past weekend is any indication, Robb is certainly headed in the right direction.
“It was a long weekend, but it was awesome,” he said with a smile.
ICYMI ... Several area wrestlers performed well in the JV portion of the Coal Cracker Tournament over the weekend. Northwestern’s Anthony Russo (120), Tamaqua’s Joey Minehan (132) and Brandon Eberts (182) and Panther Valley’s Sincere Flamer (285) all placed first in the event. The following wrestlers also earned medals at the tournament: Jim Thorpe - Chris Strika (second, 132B), Beau Strika (third, 182) and Gabe Hershman (fourth, 285); Northern Lehigh - Nathan Ellan (second, 120), Jason Hunter (second, 220) and Austin Rudolph (second, 220B); Northwestern - Blake Brunner (fourth, 126), Ryan Fink (second, 152/160) and Hunter Iatalese (second, 170B); Panther Valley - De’Antay Alston (second, 195); Tamaqua - Dax Weller (third, 145/152) and Alex Zeigler (third, 182/195),
HEY NOW, YOU’RE AN ALL STAR ... The Colonial League recently announced its 2019 All-League selections for the 2019 season.
Palmerton’s Lucas Christman (152) and Northern Lehigh’s Damion Rodriguez (170) both earned second team selections. Dennis Lombardi (132) and Dylan Gonyo (170) both made the honorable mention squad for the Bombers, as did the Bulldogs’ Joshua Schaffer (285) and Northwestern’s Harrison Bernhard (145) and Ryan Haverkamp (195).
DUALING ... Four Times News area teams qualified for the District 11 Team Championships. Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Northwestern and Tamaqua all will be competing in the Class 2A bracket.
The Indians earned the No. 5 seed and will face 12-seed Pine Grove (Northern Lehigh) in the first round. The Raiders are the seventh-seed and will face No. 10 Northwestern (Liberty), while the Olympians are seeded ninth and will wrestle No. 8 Catasauqua (at Northampton).
A win in the opening round guarantees each team will wrestle a quarterfinal match Thursday, and that they will wrestle again on Saturday.
Northern Lehigh, Liberty and Northampton will be the host sites for tonight’s first round and quarterfinal matches. First round matches are scheduled for 6 p.m., with the quarterfinals to follow at 7:30.
The consolation rounds, semifinals, finals and any true-second place matches, if necessary, will be Saturday at Freedom.
Bethlehem Catholic (3A) and Saucon Valley (2A) are the defending champions.
The top-two teams in each class advance to the PIAA tournament.
Ticket prices are $7 for adults, and $4 for both students and senior citizens.