Disappointing night at the gym

By on January 16, 2013

Talking Sports By

Bruce Morgan If you are a Warwick wrestling fan, then the names of former stars like Jeff Martin, Scott Martin and Scott Mitchell should bring back some fond memories. When they wore the Warriors’ singlet, I knew not to make any plans during the week that the PIAA State Wrestling Championships were being held in the Hersheypark Arena.

Those were fun times making the annual journey to Chocolatetown to watch them compete among the best that Pennsylvania had to offer in the legendary arena. During their careers, Jeff Martin achieved 130 wins and claimed two PIAA silver medals (1988, 1990) and one bronze (1991), Scott Martin earned a PIAA bronze in 1990 and a fifth-place medal in 1989, while Mitchell earned 115 wins and took home a PIAA sixth-place medal in 1991.

I was fortunate to be with the Record Express to see them for their last couple of years at Warwick (before they graduated in the early ’90s). In fact, one of my most vivid memories during that era was walking into the Warwick gymnasium on a Saturday afternoon with sports editor Steve Palkovic for a showdown against arch-rival Ephrata and their crew, which included Chad Brenneman and Jason Frable.

There was serious electricity in the gym. There was a buzz. And I’m sure the wrestlers had to get a great boost of excitement from it.

I expected that same sort of atmosphere upon walking into the same gymnasium last Thursday night. But to be honest, I was both surprised and disappointed.

Here you had a showdown between two of the last remaining unbeaten teams in Section One in Warwick and Manheim Township, who in my opinion is much more of a rival today than Ephrata.

Both the Warriors and Blue Streaks have star power. Both entered the night with Section championship aspirations. Warwick already had a couple of exciting wins under their belt, including one against Hempfield in which senior Tom Devenney outdueled Joey Goodhart in a battle of returning District qualifiers. Yet, the house wasn’t even near-filled to capacity last Thursday. Large pockets of bleacher space dotted the gymnasium.

It just came as a real shocker to me, especially since Warwick has two wrestlers — freshman 106-pounder Devin Schnupp and senior heavyweight Tom Devenney — who are ranked among the top two in their respective weight classes and are among those with PIAA state aspirations this March. By the same token, Manheim Township has at least four wrestlers who fit that description — Cortlandt Schuyler, Matt Grossman, Alex Smith and Adam Smith.

Granted, neither Schnupp nor Devenney wrestled due to forfeits, but Warwick has several others who are putting together a nice season and the Warriors, as a team, believed they had a real chance to win back the Whisler-McDonald Trophy (annually awarded to the winner of this rivalry) for the first time since 2010. So the match seemed like a perfect opportunity to pack the place. Thank goodness it wasn’t held in the large gymnasium or the small crowd would have been even more pronounced.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps part of the blame falls on my shoulders for not helping to promote it enough.

Maybe the crowd at the Warwick-Manheim Township match was diminished due to another Lancaster-Lebanon League barn-burner five miles up the road, where Manheim Central was taking on Garden Spot with Section Two ramifications. My friend Andy Fasnacht, a big wrestling fan who announced the Central-Garden Spot match for Blue Ridge Cable-11, reported that the crowd in Manheim was fantastic. That was good to hear, even just for the health of the sport in a year when so many teams are giving up a handful of forfeits every night.

I also understand that people’s lives are busier than ever, and that the admission price can get a tad salty, even for a family of three or four. But I wonder how many people sitting in the gym last Thursday night were thinking along with me that the turnout was disappointing. Although I’m sure a good part of the crowd was family members of the wrestlers, it was good to see a lot of old friends and a number of administrators at the match, including Dr. April Hershey, who frequently attends sporting events at the school.

The next opportunity to see the Warwick wrestlers in action is next Wednesday, Jan. 23 when they host Section One favorite Solanco. If you get a chance, it might be worth your time to stop in and watch a match. The student-athletes would appreciate it.

And you might just see the next Jeff Martin, Scott Martin or Scott Mitchell.

*****

Speaking of former star athletes to come out of Warwick, who can forget the unbelievable season that Deron Thompson had with the Warwick football team as a senior in 2010? For him to join an elite group of L-L League running backs to ever rush for 2,000 yards in a single season was just remarkable, especially when you consider that opponents’ defenses knew that he was going to get the ball and they still couldn’t stop him. Thompson, though, wasn’t the only stud on that team. Linebacker/fullback Bryan McCall was another.

So why do I bring up Thompson and McCall now, you ask? Only because of a dumb mistake I made in last week’s issue of the Lititz Record Express. In my article about Warwick senior Tom Devenney being named Honorable Mention by the Pennsylvania Football News, I mentioned that he was the first one since Zach Snyder and Jon Resch took home the honor in 2007. No disrespect to Zach and Jon for that tremendous honor, but Deron (Fourth-Team) and Bryan (Honorable Mention) actually received accolades by the Pennsylvania Football News in 2010.

By the way, Deron received a varsity letter this past fall with the Penn State University football team while playing special teams for the Nittany Lions, and Bryan played in four games with Bloomsburg University in 2012 and finished with five tackles, including three in a 38-14 win over Millersville.

My sincere apologies for the oversight in last week’s issue. More TALKING SPORTS, page B-4