With the lack of numbers that many high school wrestling teams are experiencing, some programs have to rely on freshmen to fill the holes.
More freshmen seem to be filling those holes for area teams this season than ever before.
You may have noticed the three freshman starting for Bedford, which is again the Mirror's top-ranked team, including top-ranked 103-pounder Ryan Easter. The Bisons have relied on veterans like Trey Easter, Cory Thomas, Zach Maust and Tanner Ripple to carry them in recent years, but they have graduated.
To keep winning as a team, the Bisons have called upon the freshmen to take on a tough schedule, take their lumps, give some lumps in Ryan Easter's case, and get experience for the future.
Bedford, however, doesn't hold a candle to the youth movement going on elsewhere in the area.
Northern Cambria, accustomed to small roster sizes, has eight fuzzy-cheeked freshmen on its roster, and six of them were in the lineup for the season-opening Zeigler Chevrolet Tournament at Claysburg-Kimmel.
All of eight of the freshman have already seen time on the mat, though, and while most will struggle as they get used to going up against more experienced wrestlers, some will begin to show some promise.
Tussey Mountain appears to the second youngest team in the area. While they don't have freshmen, the Titans are relying heavily on sophomores. In their last match against Bellwood-Antis, the Titans started eight sophomores, and nine have seen action already.
Some coaches would rather get caught in a spladle at practice rather than call up a freshman. In talking to Hollidaysburg coach Mike Moore for a story on senior Damian Lascoli, he said he only calls freshmen up if he thinks they're ready for the high school level.
But, you never really know how a 14-year-old or 15-year-old will handle the step up just like you never know how a good high school wrestler will do in college. High school coaches just have to roll the dice and see what happens.
It will be interesting to follow the young guys over the course of their careers.
Lions ahead of schedule
Coming off of sharing the team title at the Southern Scuffle with top-ranked Cornell, Penn State, destined for future greatness under coach Cael Sanderson, appears to be ahead of schedule.
Sanderson said before the season started that redshirt freshman Ed Ruth would be a fan favorite, but nobody would have seen him beating the No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers in the country en route to winning the 174-pound title and the outstanding wrestler award. Plus, Andrew Alton and Frank Molinaro came very close to knocked off the top-ranked guys at their weights.
It will be interesting to see how Sanderson handles Iowa State transfer Andrew Long, a returning NCAA runner-up who was booted off the ISU team after his second alcohol-related offense. Long coming to a traditional party school doesn't seem like it will have a good outcome, but given that he wanted to wrestle for Sanderson, he might be able to stay out of trouble.
Just think what they might be able to do next year if they can get Dylan Alton, a healthy Quentin Wright and a 197-pounder into the lineup.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org