Baron matmen set sights on defending Section Two crown
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
At least in recent years, the Manheim Central varsity wrestling team’s roster hasn’t been known to feature a lot of freshmen.
The 2012-13 season will be different, however.
The MC matmen will have not one, not two, but five freshmen (Kole Dorwart, Caleb Enck, Brock Fittery, Connor Pavlik, Jared Siegrist) looking to help the Barons defend their Section Two championship this winter under fourth-year head coach Troy Sunderland.
"We have much more freshmen than I’ve had here at Manheim," Sunderland said. "It’s not been the norm to have freshmen on the high school team. During their freshman year, you wish they’d have more experience, but getting that experience will really pay off down the road when they are juniors and seniors."
Last year’s squad included only four seniors in Cody Bucher, Reid Pavlik, A.J. Votano and Ben Wise, but the Barons stepped up and won their first Section Two crown since 2006, knocking off Garden Spot 31-30.
Although Central lost those four grapplers to graduation, they bring back a solid nucleus from the team that finished 11-6 overall in 2011-12 (6-0 Section), including returning District qualifier Ben Metzler (34-12 last year).
Metzler, now a junior, was one of the few freshmen who competed on the varsity team in Sunderland’s tenure. Overall, Manheim Central’s skipper likes the balance that they have on the squad this winter. The Barons have eight seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores and five freshmen.
"I think it’s really one of the best balanced teams that I’ve had and it’s throughout," Sunderland remarked.
Caleb Enck, the younger brother of former MC wrestlers Dillan and Nate Enck, holds the starting job at 106, where he earned a third-place finish at Brandywine on Dec. 8. He opened a lot of eyes there by overcoming an early 5-0 deficit to one of his opponents to come back and score a fall.
"(Caleb)’s a good hard worker," Sunderland said. "It was a huge turnaround. He gives everything he has."
Senior Will Middleton (8-12) provides the Barons with depth at that weight class.
In the 113-pound weight class, junior Kyler West, who missed Districts by just one win last year at 106, will be counted on this winter after compiling a 25-17 record a year ago.
"(Kyler)’s pretty talented, pretty fast. We struggle with him a little bit sometimes," Sunderland chuckled, "in making some adjustments that he needs to do, but he’s stubborn and that’s part of what makes him as good as he is, I guess."
The Barons will have a couple of newcomers competing for them at 120, with starter John McCormick, a senior, and back-up James Harless, a junior, handling the duties there. Both have a background in martial arts.
Sophomore Jordan Esbenshade steps in at 126, where he has done a solid job so far.
"He’s a quiet, strong kid and he pays attention and picks up technique and he has done a good job," Sunderland said.
Once wrestlers get a two-pound weight allowance over the holidays, freshman Connor Pavlik, the younger brother of Reid, could also challenge at 126. At this point, Pavlik and sophomore Justice Prall are battling for the honors in the 132-pound class.
Eventually, Metzler will go down to 132 once the weight allowance takes effect. A fourth-place finisher at 126 at last year’s Manheim Holiday Tourney, he will be looking for a second straight medal there later this month.
"He’s one of our good returners with the most success," Sunderland said.
Junior 138-pounder David Fantom (7-5), who gained some experience for the Barons last year, has made a lot of progress and freshman Kole Dorwart is also in the mix at that weight.
"(David)’s a hard worker and he really closed the gap," Sunderland said. "I don’t know that the wrestle-off last year between him and Metzler went past the first period and this year, the two matches were both nip-and-tuck. It was a good wrestle-off."
Siegrist, who won a title at the Brandywine Tournament two Saturdays ago, is looking to make an impact at 145 for the Barons.
Sunderland said that bringing five freshmen up to the varsity was a combination of needing to fill weight classes, along with the fact that they were talented enough to make the jump.
"All five of them practiced with the high school team and while we were sorta deciding as a staff what would be in their best interests, all of them showed the ability to wrestle at this level," Sunderland said. "Just with asking them and challenging them if that’s what they wanted to do, the big thing for me was that they kept a positive mental approach and didn’t get discouraged in practices and competitions, they were all really optimistic and had a good attitude about understanding where they were and the expectations that I had for them. And the parents were all on board and supportive of the decision that they wanted to do."
Senior Jordan Shimer (2-0), coming off a solid cross country season in the fall, is also battling for the position at 145.
"(Jordan)’s a good kid, a hard worker and he’s paid his dues and is trying to find a weight class," Sunderland said.
Another who has paid his dues is Skyler Munoz, a senior transfer from Lancaster Catholic who is competing at 152.
"(Skyler)’s wrestled a lot, his dad’s a wrestling coach and he’s got a pretty good knowledge about wrestling," Sunderland said.
The Barons have some depth and flexiblity at 160, where junior returnee Austin King (8-4) is battling, with junior Tyler Rhoads (2-2) and sophomore Duncan Aston also providing challenges at that weight.
"Duncan is new to the sport, a couple of years in now, but he’s really picked it up pretty well and really does a nice job. And Tyler has lot of wrestling ability and is talented technically," Sunderland said.
Senior Mitchell Gingrich (6-3), a York College recruit who earned a key fall in the Barons’ Section-clinching win over GS last year, could wrestle anywhere between 152 and 170. Senior Kyle Ganse (5-14), whose reversal at the buzzer against Spot last winter gave him a critical 7-5 win, is in the mix at 170.
Turning to 182, junior returnee JJ Sanchez (7-12) is currently the Barons’ only wrestler at that weight, but he is working his way down to 170 with the upcoming weight allowance.
Senior Peter Michael (9-15) is at 195 right now, but will bump to 182 when Sanchez moves down, and freshman Brock Fittery is also in the mix in the 195-pound class.
In additon to Michael, the Barons also have some experience at the next two weights. Junior Rey Lasanta (9-7) will go from 220 to 195 over the holidays, and senior Manny Del Carpio (8-7) will handle the 220-pound class.
At heavyweight, sophomore Ethan Lindsey knocked off Central Dauphin’s wrestler twice while placing third at Brandywine. Sophomore Joseph Giffin provides depth there for Manheim Central.
The Barons got their Section Two schedule underway this past Tuesday with a win over Cocalico, which Sunderland is hoping will be the first step toward defending their title.
However, Manheim Central’s fourth-year skipper knows that there is a lot of work to be done between now and February.
"I think that’s well within our capability (to repeat)," Sunderland said. "Things have to go right and kids have to continue to develop and believe in themselves and we have to avoid injuries. Against the League, Manheim Township has a pretty tough team, Hempfield and Penn Manor always have some good individuals, Solanco obviously. So it’s going to be an interesting League tournament, I think. But for us, looking toward the post-season, we want to get as many guys going to the District Tournament and then to the State Tournament. That’s just a hurdle that we haven’t overcome yet since I’ve been at Manheim is getting someone qualified for the State Tournament. But I don’t want to just shoot for qualifying for States, but getting kids that want to believe in and buy in that they have the ability and desire to become a State champion." More MC MATMEN, page B-5