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Local grapplers focused on States
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Warwick senior heavyweight Tom Devenney compared the past 12 days leading up to the PIAA State Wrestling Championships to a bye week in football.
"You really get a lot of time to prepare for who you think your opponents are going to be and what they like to do," he said.
That, and getting an opportunity to heal from the bumps and bruises which are par for the course at this time of year, are among the bonuses for those who haven’t wrestled since the District Three Triple-A Championships on Feb. 22-23.
The disadvantage, in relationship to their peers who battled at Regionals last weekend, is that they haven’t had live competition for an extended period of time.
But either way, Devenney, Warwick freshman 106-pounder Devin Schnupp, Manheim Central junior 138-pounder Ben Metzler and other local grapplers will need to be at their best when the Giant Center hosts the PIAA State Triple-A Wrestling Championships this Thursday through Saturday, March 7-9 in Hershey.
"I think overall, the two weeks that you get to warm up, to get ready, to gear up for States, they’re huge," Devenney said, "and your focus has to be there the whole time. Otherwise, you won’t do anything there."
The Triple-A gets underway today (Thursday) at 4 p.m.
In the 106-pound brackets, Schnupp (39-4), a fourth-place finisher at Districts, gets a first-round match-up against Nazareth junior Tyrone Klump (27-5), who captured the Northeast Region gold. Although Nazareth was entered into the Bethlehem Holiday Classic where Warwick wrestled in December, the Eagles withdrew due to illness. Warwick coach Ned Bushong said that Klump wrestled at 113 most of the season.
"I haven’t wrestled (Klump) before," Schnupp said, "but you just go out, wrestle hard and control the match."
During the break, Schnupp focused a lot of his efforts on trying to improve in both the bottom and top positions.
"We’ve concentrated mostly on that," Bushong acknowledged. "Those seem to be his weaker points. He had trouble getting out of the bottom against (Solanco’s Connor) Sheehan and he had trouble with (Dylan) Chatterton (of Central York)."
Sheehan and Chatterton are two of three wrestlers at 106 that Schnupp has faced previously. The other is Quakertown junior Collyn Dorney (36-4), whom Schnupp defeated at the Bethlehem Classic. Incidentally, the Schnupp-Klump winner will get a quarterfinal draw against either Corney or Northwest Region champ Joe Wheeling (33-1), a junior from General McLane, in the top half of the brackets. Others lurking there include Greater Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher (37-2), the Southwest Region champ, and Central Dauphin sophomore Zach Elvin (27-6), the Southeast Region silver medalist.
"(The top half) is not ideal, but you always have to beat good kids," Schnupp said. "I don’t know if there is a good spot."
"I think he’s in the tougher half of the bracket," Bushong said, "but it doesn’t matter where (Devin) is. He’s going to have to wrestle somebody good no matter where he is, and at this point, anyone there is capable of winning. It’s just a matter of how he wrestles."
Ditto for Devenney (38-3), who has a first-round matchup against William Tennent senior Andrew Van Buskirk (37-3), the Southeast Region silver-medalist.
"I know a few of the returning people that were at States last year and what they like to do," Devenney said. "But (Van Buskirk) is one of the guys that I’m not really sure what he wants to do. I think really in the first round of States, you really want to set the tone and you want to prove that you belong there. So you really want to go out and be the aggressor, take your shots assert your will and just wrestle a clean match the first one."
There are four in the 285-pound brackets that Devenney has formerly wrestled — Solanco’s Southcentral runner-up Bo Spiller (29-7), Hempfield’s Southcentral champ Joey Goodhart (36-3), Shippensburg’s Southcentral fourth-place finisher Cary Hess (30-4) and Southern Lehigh’s Northeast bronze-medalist Dalton Romano (36-5). He is a combined 5-3 against those opponents.
But there are others who could present a formidable challenge in the brackets as well, including Kiski Area junior Shane Kuhn (38-0), the Southwest Region champ who placed fourth at States last year, and Nazareth senior Aaron Bradley (33-1), the Northeast Region champ who was a State runner-up to Solanco’s Thomas Haines at 220 last year. If Devenney and Kuhn both win their first-round matches, they would meet in the quarterfinals.
"(Kuhn and Bradley) are both outstanding wrestlers," Devenney said. "To do that well in the state of Pennsylvania, it sorta speaks for itself. So you just try to go out and wrestle your best match and see what happens."
Devenney worked out with Warwick teammate Carson Snavely, former Warriors’ wrestler Aaron Leeking, and Fred Heim, a friend of Warwick assistant Dan Long. He focused on preparing himself to be a well-around wrestler so that he’s ready for any situation. The fact that he has experience from States last year should be an added bonus.
"That’s actually really huge," Devenney said, "because the first time you go in the Giant Center, you’re sort of a little overwhelmed. You don’t really know if you quite belong with the class of wrestlers that are there. Having that experience, it’s really something to take advantage of, you feel like you’ve been there before, you know what people like to do."
What Devenney would like to do is stand atop the medal podium on Saturday night with a top five finish.
"My goals are to place top five," he said, "and if I’m doing well enough, place top three. But this is all sorta icing on the cake for football, so you really just want to do the best you can and go out with a bang your senior year."
Like Devenney, Metzler (30-8), the fourth-place finisher at Districts, is getting his first taste of States as a junior. He will have a tough hurdle to tackle in his first-round matchup against Father Judge junior Joe Galasso (33-1), the Northeast Region champ. Galasso’s only loss this season was to Benton High School’s Zain Rutherford.
"(Ben)’s going to have his hands full," Manheim Central coach Troy Sunderland acknowledged. "(Gallaso) is maybe in the top 10 in the country."
Asked how he would prepare Metzler for that match, Sunderland said, "I think he’s probably going to know who (Gallaso) is. The thing is just to have confidence in what he does. He has the ability to throw people and he’s strong, so anything can happen and that’s why they don’t wrestle the results just on paper. You’ve got to go out and perform and wrestle. On any given day, anybody can win."
The Metzler-Gallaso winner would draw either DuBois senior Garrett Brown (33-10), the Northwest Region bronze-medalist, or Council Rock North senior John Dutrow (39-0), who won the Southeast Region gold.
"I think at this point now," Sunderland said, "all those matches are going to be tough battles and if you make any kind of mistake, those kinds of kids at the State Tournament are going to capitalize on it. The guys that have lost one or two matches on the season, typically they don’t make a whole lot of mistakes. If they make a mistake, you’ve got to jump on it and capitalize."
Certainly, Metzler has done his preparations. After taking a couple days off following the District Championships, he worked out with Manheim Township’s contingent including Cortlandt Schuyler and Adam and Alex Smith, trying to improve in all positions.
Overall, Metzler is looking forward to his first trip to States.
"I think he’s fresh, he’s getting focused and looking forward to his first trip to States," Sunderland said. "I think at this point you just focus on that first match and anything can happen. Literally from weigh-ins to skin check, anything, you’ve just got to prepare the best you can and focus on what you do well and wrestle in positions that you’re good." More GRAPPLERS, page B-4