Just last year, the Nanticoke wrestling team was flailing in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division II standings with no conference victories. And at one point in the season, the Trojans entered a dual with nine open weight classes.
That meant the team knew, even before the meet started, they had no chance of winning. The Trojans saw a team like GAR with just six wrestlers the entire season take the drive to Nanticoke and win a WVC dual for the first time in two years.
This was just a few seasons after the Trojans appeared to be on the rise, but instead they took a few steps backwards.
What a difference a year — and a new coach — makes. Harold Shotwell, a longtime friend of the program, and junior high coach took over the team.
Right away, he made a difference, boasting a full lineup in Nanticoke’s season-opening win over Loyalsock. It was the first time in years the Trojans had 14 wrestlers in the lineup. Less than a month later at the WVC Tournament, Nanticoke was one of just four of the 14 conference teams with 13 or more entries into the event.
Sure they’ve had some hard times, falling to the top teams in the division, but the Trojans finally broke a long drought in the division when they knocked off Wyoming Area in a dual last week. Yes, the same Warriors squad that produced two state qualifiers last season and has a trio of grapplers this season that will strongly contend for a berth at states in a little more than a month.
It was a huge boost for a Nanticoke program, which consists of just two seniors, and with strong postseasons from the underclassmen, will be in position to contend next year not only for a berth in the District 2 Class 2A Duals Tournament, but perhaps for the division championship.
It’s been a long time since an individual tournament was held in Luzerne County. To be exact, it was December 2005 when The Times Leader Invitational was the biggest high school tournament in the state. It was held at Misericordia University, and 27 of District 2’s 30 teams participated.
The Tunkhannock Kiwanis Tournament is held annually in Tunkhannock and is a solid tournament every year with 20-30 participating teams. There are also many duals tournaments in Luzerne or Lackawanna counties every season. But it’s just not the same.
According to sources, there are rumblings that an individual tournament is in the works to be held at a venue in Luzerne County sometime later this year, for the 2014-15 season. And those who are involved in the planning are looking for big things, like top-name schools and wrestlers.
It might not be as big as The Times Leader Invitational once was, but should be fun either way.
The sweet smell of chocolate
Year after year, the best Pennsylvania wrestlers get to experience Hershey for four days during the PIAA Championships. It’s been like that for since 1979, whether the event was held at Hersheypark Arena or the Giant Center.
Next year, the top wrestlers in the country will get to experience Chocolatetown when the NCAA Division III Championships are held at the Giant Center on March 13-14, which happens to be the weekend after the PIAA Championships. It’s just a one-year trial, but if the arena is jammed like it is every year for the high schoolers, it could likely return a few years later.
A division tiebreaker
For the second time in four seasons, there’s a three-way tie for a WVC divisional championship as Meyers, Tunkhannock and Lake-Lehman will all own the title as Division II champs. Lehman has the distinction of being a three-time repeat champ, while the Mohawks have their first title since 2011, and the Tigers their first division championship since winning consecutive titles in 2007 and 2008.
Congratulations to those three teams, but wouldn’t it be fun if there was a true champion?
How about this? Get all three teams together and have them wrestle each other. If there’s still a tie between two teams after all three teams wrestle twice, hold another dual right after for the title. Or, the alternative is that the coaches wrestle in a winner-take-all bout.
Not only will that decide a true champion, it would likely pack a designated gym and be filled with excitement and drama, which is something everyone can agree the sport in this area needs.