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New head coach hopes to restore toughness to Mustangs

When Ted Castel was a standout heavyweight for the Portage Area High School wrestling program back in the early 1990s, the Mustangs were known for their grit, determination and fight.

Castel, 46, who spent the last three seasons as Portage’s head junior high wrestling coach, was recently promoted to the position of varsity head coach.

He hopes to restore that drive in the program this upcoming winter, if COVID-19 pandemic restrictions allow for a 2020-21 season to be held.

“Portage hasn’t been known for wrestling for a while,” said Castel, who was a District 6 Class AA runner-up at heavyweight for the Mustangs as a senior back in 1992, when the program was under the direction of head coach Doug Conlon. “I’m trying to re-establish the Portage wrestling program as a bunch of tough, gritty, hard-core wrestlers who do not quit.

“I would like to get the program back to where it used to be when I wrestled under Coach Conlon,” Castel added. “Wherever we (wrestled), we might lose, but at the end of the night, (opponents) knew that they were in a battle.”

Castel, who is employed as a wastewater/water treatment plant supervisor at the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, said that his background as Portage’s junior high wrestling coach over the past three seasons has enabled him to become familiar with the program’s current varsity wrestlers.

“I’ve already coached a lot of these kids at the junior high level,” Castel said. “They know me, they understand me, they know what I expect of them. I know their (wrestling) styles, and I know their strengths. I can relate to them when I am coaching them.”

A solid work ethic will be a big part of what Castel will bring to the table as a varsity coach for the wrestlers under his charge.

“They know that I’m going to push them to their limit – probably past their limit sometimes – but that’s wrestling,” Castel said. “I have that philosophy that hard work pays off. Even though a wrestling match is only three periods, I train my guys to wrestle for four periods. (The emphasis is on) high-tempo (wrestling) and good hand-fighting, which creates opportunities, because opportunities are what scores points.”

Portage athletic director Jeremy Burkett appreciates Castel’s nose-to-the grindstone mentality. Prior to taking the Portage junior high coaching job, Castel had served as Central Cambria’s junior high coach for six seasons.

“Teddy has been our junior high coach for the last threeyears,” Burkett said. “He’s a Portage guy. He wrestled in high school under Doug Conlon, who did a lot of good things for our program. Ted was at Central Cambria for a while. He came back (to Portage), and he brought a little bit of that Portage pride back to the program, so whenever we had a vacancy on the varsity level, it made sense to elevate Ted, and to name him as the head coach.

“(Wrestling) is more than (just) a show up and play type of sport,” Burkett said. “You have to be very disciplined in wrestling, because it’s a lifestyle. I know that from watching Ted coach the last few years at the junior high level, he had a disciplined program. He expects his kids to work, but at the same time, he cares for them.”

Castel has high hopes for the Portage program, which returns a half-dozen letterwinners.

“I’m very excited about taking over the program,” Castel said. “There’s a lot of potential there. We have some really, really good kids with great heart and a good work ethic. I’m expecting a lot from a couple of them. I’m expecting a couple of them to make some noise this year – hopefully, become district placewinners, and if they work hard enough, push through regionals and make it to (the state tournament) at Hershey.”

Burkett believes that Castel is certainly the right coach to help those promising Portage wrestlers achieve their potential.

“I know that he’s real excited, and he wants to get things going,” Burkett said of Castel. “We’re happy to have him leading our program.”

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