Friday, July 11, 2014

Blue Knights dominate more than the mat

February 05. 2014 2:14AM
By Dave Rosengrant

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KINGSTON —Over the last several years, Wyoming Seminary has turned into a national powerhouse for wrestling.

So when six wrestlers verbally committed to Division I colleges — and another announced he was joining a Division III program — last week, it really wasn’t much of a surprise.

But not only are the Blue Knights excelling on the mats, they are also showing academic skills. Three of those grapplers are headed to the Ivy League’s Columbia University in Tyler Ponte, Ty White and Matt Doggett, while two others Will Crisco and Nicky Hall are headed to North Carolina State. Ryan McMullan verbally committed to Pittsburgh and Jake Savoca agreed to attend D-III Williams College, which is listed No. 9 on the Forbes Top Colleges List, which consists of colleges from all divisions.

“I think it shows it’s a destination for kids who have high goals,” Blue Knights coach Scott Green said. “Our guys are pretty serious about their grades and academic possibilities as well. It’s definitely prestigious to have guys going Division I colleges, but the fact that it’s the Columbia’s and Harvard’s and Penn’s and Williams’ of the world make it better.”

The wrestlers will be able to officially sign their National Letters of Intent starting April 16.

Doggett, Seminary’s 220-pounder from Shavertown, said it was a tough decision to choose Columbia, especially since he also considered other options such as Lehigh, Harvard, Penn and the Naval Academy. But he knows it’s the right choice because the program is on the rise, and being joined by two teammates makes it more special.

“It’s nice to go in there knowing some people and if completely lost you have some companions to be with,” Doggett said.

Doggett grew up competing with the Back Mountain Wrestling Club for four years, the Benton Tigers and the Shamrock Wrestling Club. Now a two-time Prep All-American, he started wrestling for the Blue Knights in sixth grade under former coach John Gordon.

With 104 wins and just 35 losses during his career, he has earned a lot of medals, including a third-place finish at the Beast of the East Tournament earlier this season. But he hopes to accomplish more this season, including a national championship, or at least improving on his previous showings of eighth-and-sixth-place medals the last two seasons. So he doesn’t think back on what his career might have been if he were wrestling in the PIAA with one of the Back Mountain schools.

“Don’t get me wrong, Dallas and Lake-Lehman have great programs and have a lot of things going for them,” Doggett said. “But I think the opportunities here at Wyoming Seminary can’t be beat. It’s opened so many doors for me. It’s been the best decision of my life to come here and I’m very thankful for it.”

Joining Doggett at Columbia is White, who has piled up 242 wins in his career. While that is clearly impressive, it’s not even the most on his team.

Hall is a defending champion of the National Prep Championships and has tallied 243 career wins.

“It’s really impressive. These guys have been good for a very, very long time and that’s a lifelong commitment to the sport that has gotten them the opportunities…It’s awesome that they’ve been able to sustain that over the course of their high school careers.”

Closing the gap?

A little over three weeks ago, Seminary battled nemesis Blair Academy in the finals of the NHSCA Final Four Championships. The Blue Knights were right there with the Bucs, who have won 33 consecutive national championships, losing by three points. That shows how close the team is to being the first team to dethrone Blair as national champions when Prep Nationals roll around on Feb. 21-22 at Lehigh’s Stabler Arena.

“We had them where we wanted them and they slipped by us. But it sends a big message that we’re here this year and we’re making a good run at nationals,” Doggett said. “The goal now is to finally beat those guys. They’ve been winning this thing since 1981. They’ve been very dominant for a very long period of time and this year we’re looking to change things.”

Wyoming Seminary will be shooting for its ninth straight state title at the Pennsylvania Independent School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament on Feb. 14-15 at Mercersburg Academy.

McMullan representing

Mike McMullan won a pair of National Prep championships wrestling for Wyoming Seminary in 2009 and 2010 as a junior and senior. He’s looking to continue that trend at Northwestern University. And he’s on the right track. In the latest InterMat College Rankings, the junior is now ranked No. 1 in the country at 285-pounds and is the reigning Big Ten Wrestler of the Week after beating the top-ranked heavyweight in the country last week.

His brother, Ryan, will join him in the Division I ranks next season after verbally committing to Pittsburgh last week.

“I think that’s the expectation of the program now. Him having the success he’s having now shows kids that we can compete at that level.”

Green not surprised

Scott Green and his Blue Knights might not compete in District 2, but he is very much involved with many teams. The Blue Knights were home last weekend as they hosted a dual meet against and then had the collegiate event for seven wrestlers. So Green didn’t get a chance to go to the District 2 Duals Tournament, which was held right down the road from Seminary.

But he caught up on the action and wasn’t surprised by Pittston Area’s upset over Delaware Valley. But what did shock the coach was how West Scranton nearly pulled off the upset of Wyoming Valley West.

But, he said “That’s what happens when you got a forfeit in the lineup. I’ve been there before.”

The Spartans, who have been forfeiting a bout at 195, open the PIAA Team Championships Thursday night at 6 at Giant Center in Hershey against District 1 champion Boyertown.

This ‘n’ That

• One of the best aspects to come out of the District 2 Duals last weekend at the Kingston Armory was that members of the National Guard dressed teams with their winning medals.

• Coughlin will induct class into its fairly new Hall of Fame later this month when Mark Popple and Larry Danko are honored prior to Saturday’s home dual against Hanover Area at 7 p.m. Last year, Danko was selected into the MAC Hall of Fame after a superb wrestling career for King’s College. Popple belongs to a class — with not many members — consisting of father-son wrestling duos to win a District 2 gold medal. Popple won district glory in 1979, while his son, Josh, won in 2010 and 2011.

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