While I hesitate to bring basketball into a wrestling column, there's a hoops term that comes to mind when I look forward to next year: Who's got next?
Who will follow in the footsteps of Tyrone's A.J. Schopp? Schopp paid the price with his offseason training and wrestling, recovered from disappointing losses in the finals his freshman and junior seasons and won a state title in a deep weight class at the PIAA championships.
There are two obvious candidates that come to mind in Penn Cambria's Evan Link and Tyrone's Ronnie Garbinsky, who will be seniors next year.
Garbinsky, who like Schopp is a three-time state placewinner, was ranked No. 1 at 130 and undefeated upon arriving in Hershey, just days after beating Shady Side Academy's second-ranked Frank Martellotti in the Southwest Regional tournament finals. He pinned his way to the semifinals, but one late misstep against Boiling Springs' Joe Spisak cost him in a 6-3 loss. Unfocused in the consolation semifinals, he finished fifth.
Like Garbinsky, Link was ranked No. 1 heading into the state tournament. He was upset by Shady Side's Phillip Elias in the regional tournament, but he had finished third there as a sophomore before making the state finals and losing to North Star's Nick Roberts.
Link lost to Athens' eventual state champ David White, 4-0, in the quarterfinals and avenged his regional loss to Elias with a late takedown in the consolations. But Westmont Hilltop's Josh Polacek, whom Link had beaten in the last two District 6 finals, beat him, 3-2, in the consolation quarterfinals, dropping Link to the seventh-place bout.
Yes, they could follow in Schopp's footsteps, but as their and Central Cambria 2009 runner-up Phil Steinberg's PIAA championships experiences proved, nothing is a given at arguably the toughest high school state tournament in the nation. You have to be at your best, overcome obstacles like a broken nose and just survive.
There are other area wrestlers who could do that, including the 10 returning Class AA qualifiers and two Class AAA qualifiers.
Claysburg-Kimmel's Ty Dively, Cole Claar and Corey Aungst, Huntingdon's Kie Brown, Central Cambria's Tony Risaliti, Bedford's Brian Gibbons, Portage's David Kephart and Northern Bedford's Joel Suter will look to make a return tip to Hershey. Altoona's T.J. Brandt and Hollidaysburg's Damian Lascoli will set their sights on the Class AAA tournament.
I can't forget to mention C-K's 2009 state qualifier James Dodson, Altoona's Jacob Hines and Wendell Myers, Penn Cambria's Nick Szala and Joey Stoy, Huntingdon's Nick Marter and Alex Miller, NBC's Preston Albright and Daniel Sollenberger, Central Cambria's Devin Hornbake and Shane Morris as capable candidates to make state runs next year. Bellwood-Antis' Trevor Helsley, Philipsburg-Osceola's Kenny Myers, Chestnut Ridge's Tyler Dibert, Bedford's Jacob Krupa and Cambria Heights' Ryan Dupas could also be among the elite next season.
Add young stars from the junior high level to the mix, as well as improved stars from other districts and regions, and the answer to "Who's got next?" becomes even more complicated.
Trio at Dapper Dan
You could argue that Schopp deserved to be wrestling in Saturday nights' Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic instead of Council Rock South's Josh Dziewa, but there were three District 6 Class AAA wrestlers going up against some of the best in the country.
Central Mountain's Andrew (145) and Dylan Alton (152) were picked for the all-star event, as was Bellefonte's Mitchell Port (119). It's the most District 6 wrestlers competing in the event since Claysburg-Kimmel's Jarrett Musselman and State College's Matt Storniolo and Nathan Galloway wrestled in the 2002 Classic.
Updates have been good
I've been impressed with the way the NCAA has been updating wrestling fans with round-by-round results at the NCAA Wrestling Championships on Facebook.
Fans have been able to read the updated status of NCAA wrestling, including who's made the quarterfinals, semifinals, finals, etc., team standings and general news about the sport. They've also been able to make comments and see photos from the tournament.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or email@example.com.