Pitt-Johnstown wrestling coach Pat Pecora has an ambitious goal.
“I want every good wrestler in Pennsylvania to walk through UPJ’s wrestling room before he graduates (high school),” Pecora said on Thursday.
The Hall of Fame coach certainly had a good start on it this week, as hundreds of young wrestlers filled UPJ’s Sports Center from morning until night.
Members of the Pennsylvania Junior and Cadet national teams – both freestyle and Greco-Roman – have been hitting the mats at UPJ while Pecora’s popular camp included 120 wrestlers ranging from first-graders to high schools seniors. Throw in the Young Guns club practices run by UPJ assistant Jody Strittmatter and it’s been a busy week on the Richland Township campus.
“We’ve had wrestlers on the mat from 7 a.m. to 10 at night,” Pecora said on Thursday as members of the Greco-Roman Cadet team warmed up for a practice session.
Members of the Pennsylvania teams are practicing in preparation for the national championship tournament in Fargo, N.D., which begins today.
The tournament has Cadet (wrestlers born in 1997 or ‘98) and Junior (those born after Sept. 1, 1993 and still enrolled in grades 9-12) classifications. It also includes male and female divisions.
The current members of Team Pennsylvania have quite a legacy to uphold. A report on theopenmat.com shows that the Keystone State has been the most successful at the event over the years, with a combined 1,294 All-Americans and 186 champions since it started in 1971.
But staying at the top is no easy task.
“Fargo is one of the toughest tournaments in the U.S.” said Joe Stabilito Jr., Pennsylvania’s Cadet Greco-Roman coach. “You can talk about scholastic states, but I personally don’t think there is anything tougher. The competition that we see here is a level higher. The kids that are doing this are the kids you see in the state finals in scholastic.”
Only one local wrestler – Somerset’s Jon Fabian – was a part of the Greco-Roman teams at UPJ this week. The 145-pounder, who will be a junior in the fall – is thrilled to be making his first trip to Fargo.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “I heard there are like a hundred-and-some kids in a bracket. I just want to go try it out. I’m praying I get on that podium. I’ve been working hard for it.”
Fabian said that Greco-Roman, in which wrestlers are not allowed to touch their opponents below the waist, is a better fit for him than freestyle.
“I’m more upper body,” he said. “I like how the pace is slowed down. I can just stay in my mind and just keep working.”
Penns Valley’s Seth Decker, who was a runner-up at the District 6 folkstyle tournament in February, said that having wrestled in the national tournament last year makes it easier for him this summer.
“It helps a lot, knowing what competition you have to wrestle, just knowing what they do,” said Decker, who graduated to the Junior level this year after competing as a Cadet last year. “It helps training with these guys, too.”
Members of the Cadet team were scheduled to leave for Fargo on Thursday with the Junior team beginning the long bus trip today.
Cadet and Junior wrestlers who are competing in only the freestyle portion of the national tournament will arrive at UPJ today for a few days of workouts before leaving for North Dakota.
Pitt-Johnstown wrestling coach Pat Pecora has an ambitious goal.
Moving on up | Nine grapplers advance to AA quarterfinals
Bedford’s Garrett Thomas said he wasn’t nervous at all.
United’s Tyler Oliver admitted that he was, even if he told his coaches that he wasn’t.
And Richland’s Nico Pecora said the pressure is on his family members, not him.
Nervous or not, those three, who were making their state tournament debuts, and six other local wrestlers won their first match at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships on Thursday morning to qualify for today’s quarterfinal round.
Day 1 gives ups and downs for region
There was plenty of talk about roller coasters on Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center, but it had nothing to do with the thrill rides across the parking lot at Hersheypark.
It was all about the ups and downs of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships.
Berlin boys wary of Trojans’ size, athleticism
On the same night last week that Berlin Brothersvalley was winning its first District 5-A title since 2007, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic was losing to eventual champion Lincoln Park in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
The Mountaineers (23-2), one of three area boys district champions set to begin opening-round action in the PIAA playoffs tonight, and Trojans (15-10) will square off this evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center, site of Berlin’s 65-51 district championship win over Forbes Road.
Tomahawks return home to face Jets
Johnstown Tomahawks coach Jason Spence knows numbers can be deceiving.
For instance, the Tomahawks’ Matt Meier had two goals and three points on Saturday night. Goaltender Brett Young made 41 saves.
Those statistics are impressive for 60 minutes of work. Both players had solid efforts, especially during a road game. On paper, the numbers looked good enough for a victory.
Danel helping Falcons to Division III tournament
When Chelsea Danel was a senior at North Star, the Cougars were able to win a District 5-AA basketball title.
Now Danel, a senior at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, is a key contributor on a Falcons’ hoops squad which upset top-seeded Lebanon Valley 53-47 in the Commonwealth Conference championship on Saturday. It was the ninth title for the Falcons in 13 appearances.
Pirates, Jays rained out
The Toronto Blue Jays' spring training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Thursday.
The game will not be made up.
Ferndale grad aiding Duquesne women’s hoops
Matt Schmidt was hired as an assistant coach for the Duquesne women’s basketball team in June.
Now the former Ferndale High School standout will have his first opportunity to experience March madness with the Dukes, who are the sixth-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament which opened Thursday in Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va.
Icecats on way to national tournament
The Pitt-Johnstown hockey team needed to overcome some long odds to advance to the ACHA Men’s Division III national championship tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. next week.
- Local Sports Briefs 3-7-14
Local wrestlers advance in PIAA tournament
Nine local wrestlers – including three from Bedford – advanced to the quarterfinal round of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships this morning.
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- Moving on up | Nine grapplers advance to AA quarterfinals