Battling for Second in District 3

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Over the past several seasons teams competing in the District 3 AAA Team Tournament have largely battled for the runner-up position. The reason being, a Central Dauphin team that year after year seems to always find a way to the top at both the District and State level. Jeff Sweigard’s Rams have won the District 3 Championship the previous FOUR seasons, capturing the AAA title in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. There is no shame finishing second to the Central Dauphin Rams, who have not only captured the previous four District 3 Championships, but also FOUR straight PIAA State Team Championships.

Below is an evaluation of this years top ranked teams in District 3 and how each will fair. The team most accustomed to earning the #2 spot behind Central Dauphin? The Cumberland Valley Eagles. The District 3 rivals have met in the District finals three out of the four previous years as Cumberland Valley fell to CD in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Despite losing 2x State Champion Kenny Courts and State runner-up Kevin Gooding to graduation, the expectations for this years Central Dauphin team remain the same. 2012 should be no different for District 3 as the Rams are favored to capture a fifth straight District 3 Team Championship. Once again teams will do battle over the runner-up position and a spot in the PIAA State Team Tournament.

#1. Central Dauphin

The Rams have done it all the past fours seasons. State Dual Team titles, State Individual Tournament titles, District 3 Dual Champions and the list goes on. This season the Rams will return 3 State medalists, a State qualifier, and 3 wrestlers with 30+ wins last season. Although I predict CD to earn their 5th straight District 3 Dual Championship, the Rams will have a tough time earning their 5th straight PIAA Dual Championship. Their upper-weights will be inexperienced and several potential starters are still playing football for Central Dauphin.

Questions also remain in the light weights, such as whether Jeremy Schwartz, a PowerADE runner-up last season, will make 106 lbs. early on, or if freshmen Zach Elvin will see time at either 106 lbs. or 113 lbs. Schwartz competed at 122 lbs. on October 22 at the Lock Haven Fall Classic but later wrestled at 106 lbs. at the Super 32 Challenge on October 29-30. Two returning juniors who both saw varsity action last season, Evan Davis and Austin Camacci, may again see time anywhere between 113 lbs. and 126 lbs. Returning State 3rd place medalist Tyson Dippery has wrestled at 132 lbs. in several off-season events but should be seeing action at 126 lbs. by the Beast of the East on December 17 & 18.

The Ram’s middle-weights should fair well this season with a strong punch of four top quality wrestlers in a row, consisting of Shyheim Brown, Nick Varndell, Austin Rose, and Garrett Peppelman. Filling out the line-up are returning starters Colton Peppelman (26-16) last season and Dorian Spradlin (33-8) last season. Overall, it will be tough to replace Kenny Courts and Kevin Gooding, but the Rams will again be a solid dual team that should be favored to take the District 3 Dual title. I predict the Rams to place top 3 in the PIAA State Dual Team Championships.

#2. Solanco

Last season Solanco finished 4th at the District 3 Team tournament and qualified for the PIAA State Team Tournament for the first time. Individually, t he Mules of Solanco produced two State Champions last season, Dan Neff and Thomas Haines; Neff is now at Lock Haven and Haines is in his sophomore season. The rest of the line-up this season should play out nicely for head coach John Little. Connor Moran, a PIAA 5th place medalist last season will lead an experienced team that returns five 30+ match winners from last season, including Haines an Moran. Solanco’s light-weights will be filled by young talent, with sophomore Connor Sheehan expected to get his first start at 106 lbs. and junior returning regional 4th place medalist Ronnie Perry moving up to either 113 lbs. or 120 lbs. Senior Evan Wertz, a 26 match winner last season, will be complimenting Perry at either 113 lbs. or 120 lbs. as well.

The middle-weights will be led by senior Wink Charles, a 20 match winner last season, and also feature three 15+ match winners last season with Austin Laws, Kyle Hammond and Isaac Warren. Two seniors that will join Connor Moran in leading the Mules are Joe Welk and Cole Martin. Both were 30+ match winners last season and individually this season should have an impact at their respective weights in District 3. Overall, the aspect that sticks out about Solanco is their deep talent. Haines will not be losing many matches this season and if the rest of the Solanco line-up wrestles to their ability, the Mules could challenge Central Dauphin for a District 3 Dual title. Despite a few holes in the line-up I predict Solanco to place top 3 in the District and qualify for a second year in a row for the PIAA Team Tournament.

#3.Cumberland Valley

Always a power in District 3, this seasons Eagles may not have the big names they are used to, but anyone underestimating Cumberland Valley is making a mistake. Sophomore T.C. Warner is a talented wrestler who many feel will be on the medal stand in Hershey. Joining Warner in leading Cumberland Valley will be heavyweight Kyle Friend, one of the top in his class this season, but the senior could miss action early after coming off a tough football season for the Eagles. Additionally, CV will feature two experienced seniors in Boe Barrick, a 20-match winner last season before being injured and Dennis Zaitsev, a regional qualifier at 189 lbs. last season. 

The key, however, for the Eagles this season will be the young and talented wrestlers that will make up much of the varsity line-up. The headline of that group will be freshman Patrick Duggan, a decorated youth wrestler (see “Freshmen Frenzy” article) who should contribute greatly to the team. In addition to Duggan, freshman Connor Long may see varsity action in the light-weights and compliment returning 25 match winner at 112 lbs. a season ago Alex Wolfe, who is a sophomore this year.

Cumberland Valley’s line-up still has question marks and it is not certain that Kyle Friend will begin or remain healthy throughout the season. One thing is certain, the future is bright for head coach Dave Heckard and his Eagles, and this young team should fair well this season against the District 3 field. Overall, I predict Cumberland Valley to compete for a spot in the PIAA State Dual Tournament.

#4. Governor Mifflin

Yet another experienced line-up with shades of experience and youth, the Governor Mifflin team features a returning State medalist and two returning State qualifiers. Senior Kenny Arentz, a PIAA State 6th place finisher last season at 112 lbs., will look to improve on his State medal and seniors Colin Ochs, a returning State qualifier at 103 lbs., and Mike Shermot, a returning State qualifier at 160 lbs. will seek their first State medals this season.

Two exceptional juniors will also lead the Mustangs; Keith Stednitz who won 36 matches last season at 140 lbs. and Marcus Johnson who won 35 matches last season at 171 lbs. Both Stednitz and Johnson are expected to qualify for the PIAA State Tournament and help propel the Mustangs to the PIAA State Dual Tournament. Like other top teams in the District, Governor Mifflin combines its experienced seniors and juniors with youthful talent. The Mustangs varsity line-up could see up to four freshmen starting this season. Freshmen light-weights Jonah Fisher, Colin Johnson, and Quentin Smith will compete for the spots not filled by seniors Ochs and Arentz. Freshman Jan Johnson should break into the varsity line-up somewhere between 160 lbs. and 170 lbs. for the Mustangs.

Despite a line-up consisting of wrestlers with over 30 wins in a season and PIAA State Tournament experience, the holes in the Mustang’s line-up are visible ones. Although the talented freshmen will surely impact this team, it is uncertain how far the traditionally strong program will go in 2011-2012. I predict a strong performance at the District 3 Team Tournament and would not be surprised if the Mustangs of Governor Mifflin qualified for the PIAA Team Tournament.


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