So far this wrestling season, most of the hype when it comes to Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1/Class 3A teams has revolved around last season’s co-champions: Tunkhannock, Hazleton Area and Coughlin.
Sure, the attention has been justified, but there appears to be another team looking to toss its hat into the ring of contenders.
While success at tournaments doesn’t always equal the same in duals due to matchups and other factors, Dallas could be a team that steps up as a viable threat to every competitor.
After the Tigers and Cougars in last weekend’s WVC Tournament, the next-highest D1/3A team in the standings was the Mountaineers, who finished sixth with six medalists, including Cole Dixon, who won the 182-pound bracket with a win over Lake-Lehman’s Tommy Williams in the finals.
Dixon is one of just two seniors who medalled for Dallas and one of three seniors of the 14 wrestlers who entered the tournament for the team. In addition to the three seniors, the 14 Dallas grapplers in the event consisted of six juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen meaning the Mountaineers could be on the verge of starting a sustained run.
“It’s nice because I’m a captain now and more of a leader and I get to help these guys and they’re improving each week and getting better,” Dixon said. “When you’re gonna wrestle us, people are going to underestimate us. I think we have promise in our lineup and some of these matches we’re gonna catch guys.”
Wyoming Valley West freshman David Krokowski dominated the 106-pound bracket over the weekend despite entering as the No. 4 seed. Krokowski picked up three pins, including two in the first period, and a 15-10 win over Lake-Lehman’s promising freshman Bobby Long in the quarterfinals en route to the title. He also ousted top-seeded Carlos Cruz from Hazleton Area in the semis before besting Tunkhannock’s Dave Gavek in the final.
“I thought it was going to be a lot tougher coming in as a freshman but it was a lot easier after those first couple matches and getting momentum behind me,” Krokowski said. “After my quarterfinal match against Bobby Long, I beat him 15-10, and built up more confidence to take down the other two, the No. 1 seed and the third seed.”
A proud moment
Ten wrestlers won their first WVC Tournament title over the weekend and more than half of those winners won a gold medal in any tournament for the first in their careers.
One of the first-time winners of any event was Hazleton Area 113-pounder Jake Maurer when he defeated Meyers’ Mike Dempsey, 2-1.
Maurer’s father, Keith, is the Cougars’ head coach. To sit in the corner and watch his son have a great performance over the weekend was special for the coach.
“It’s the first tournament he’s ever won,” Keith Maurer said. “At one point and time I didn’t know if I’d ever get to see him win a tournament. It’s pretty gratifying.”
A family affair
Two of the four repeat champions, Meyers’ Colin Pasone and Hazleton Area’s Jimmy Hoffman, are both juniors and will have a chance and tying the tournament record of three titles next season.
There’s less than a handful of athletes to claim three tourney championships, but two of them are related to Pasone and Hoffman, and both were graduates from the same schools. Pasone’s brother, Vito won his last WVC title in 2012, while Hoffman’s cousin, Chad Hoffman, also won his third title in 2012.
In an attempt to speed up the time of the finals, the tournament committee decided to hold seven finals then distributed the medals for those seven, and then wrestle the last seven and hand out all those medals afterwards.
Five pins also helped reduce the longevity of the last round, but the method used may have worked too because from the start of the first match until the team trophy was awarded, the total time was around the two-hour mark. In previous years, the finals lasted three hours or more.
Not only did the medal distribution process help in speeding up the finals, it also kept fans in attendance for the last few matches. When awards are handed out in other ways, parents, wrestlers and fans tend to leave early and miss some of the best matches. On Saturday, hundreds were still in attendance at Lake-Lehman for the conclusion.
Reach Dave Rosengrant at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @tldrosengrant