BROCKWAY — The Brockway wrestling program has seen both ends of the spectrum in the last decade-plus — going from having just a handful of wrestlers in the mid-2000s to the highly decorated senior class that graduated a season ago.
That senior group — nine in total — helped lead Brockway to a 12-5 dual-meet record and a trip to the District 9 Class AA team Tournament semifinals, where the Rovers fell to eventual state champ Brookville.
Individually, five of the Rovers’ eight regional qualifiers came from that senior class — with the senior quartet of Mason Lindenmuth, Ryan Carlson, Mitchell Overbeck and Dustin Jamison all making it to states in Hershey. Lindenmuth (5th, 126) and Carlson (8th, 120), both multi-state medalists, brought home some hardware home once again last spring.
The end of that impressive 2016 postseason run for the Rovers brought with it a lot of uncertainty for head coach Eric Grecco, as the nine-member senior class made up more than half of last year’s 16-man roster.
With just six underclassmen on that roster, Grecco wasn’t sure if the program would return to the state it was in close to 10 years ago or not. Fast forward eight months, and Grecco couldn’t be more pleased with the numbers, as he enters the 2016-17 with the largest roster (18 kids) during his three years as head coach.
While the numbers are still there, the overall experience Grecco had the past two seasons won’t be, as the latest version of the Rovers will feature 12 freshmen and sophomores and several kids who have never wrestled before.
At the same time, Brockway does return a handful of wrestlers who competed last year — a group led by returning regional qualifiers Garrett McClintick (sophomore, 22-17), Mark Latuska (senior, 12-19) and Pierce Yahner (junior, 11-21) and sophomore Santino “Tino” Inzana (21-15). Junior Angelo Inzana also has returned to the program after taking last year off, while freshman Linkin Nichols, a former youth wrestler, also is back on the mat.
“I’m thrilled to have this many kids,” said Grecco. “It’s unbelievable to think that it wasn’t just 10 years ago that we had five kids on team and now we have 18. We hope to continue to build this program and continue to get these Brockway athletes out and keep numbers up to around 18-20 kids. That’s how you become competitive, not only at the district, but the state level.
“That was a great group we lost. We had six seniors who wrestled all throughout high school for four years. Four of them went to states last year and we had the two state medalists. We lost nine seniors total, and in the offseason I didn’t really know how many kids we were going to have returning or who we might bring up (from junior high).
“We were figuring on 10 or 11, but it’s nice getting some kids who never wrestled before or having kids who have wrestled before like Linkin and Angelo Inzana back out. It’s the most kids I’ve ever had in my three years here coaching, and they’re building off each other and it’s really a good experience.”
Given the team’s youth and inexperience, Grecco will rely heavily on his three returning state qualifiers and Tino Inzana to lead the way in the room and on the mat once matches start.
“This group has come in to start year and is working really hard and are willing to learn,” said Grecco. “Mark (Latuska), even though he’s only second-year wrestler, has kind of taken the leadership role and they’re kind of building on each other. We’re having really good practices right now.
“Mark, Pierce and Garrett were all able to make it to the regional tournament last year and got some very valuable experience throughout the year. Then you add in Tino and Garrett each getting over 20 wins as freshmen, and we’re really looking to those four to lead our team from their varsity experience.
“Anthony Glasl (freshman) has had some success at the youth level, and the junior level, and we’re looking for him to help us get things started at the lightweights It’s also nice to have Angelo (Inzana) back. He wrestled all through youth, in junior high and in ninth grade in varsity. He took last year off and decided he wanted to come back out this year, and we’re really excited to get him back. We think he’ll help us there in those middle weights and get some solid wins for us.”
As for the lineup, Brockway won’t have a 106-pounder to start the season. Glasl will open the lineup at 113, with sophomore Elijah Shifter and freshman Evan Grech at 120 and 126, respectively.
Tino Inzana is at 126 to get started, while sophomore newcomers Devin Velez and Matt Holt are at 138, with Velez looking to be the starter. Grecco’s hope is that Glasl might eventually drop to 106, which would allow him to potentially drop everyone from 138 (starting with Velez) down a weight.
Freshman Andrew Hickman is at 145, with Nichols serving as his backup to open the season. The Rovers have a pair of experienced wrestlers at 152 in sophomore Bryce Grecco (3-13) and Angelo Inzana, who is recovering from an injury.
Eric Johnson, another freshman, will man 160, with a pair of senior newcomers — Erik Botwright and Jake Allenbaugh — at 170. Brockway’s experience then kicks in, in the upperweights with McClintick, Yahner and Latuska at 182, 195 and 220, respectively. Sophomore Justin Smith looks to be the starter at 285, with sophomore newcomer Hayden Thompson also at heavyweight.
“We know it’s going to take some time because we have some brand new wrestlers who have never done it before,” said Grecco. “It will take some time for the to get some mat exposure and get the feel of it out there. Eventually, we’re hoping by mid to late January we’re rolling on all cylinders and able to come together as a pretty solid team.”
Grecco also is hopeful that the success the graduated group of seniors enjoyed will serve as some added motivation for his younger wrestlers.
“A lot of our kids were freshmen or sophomores last year, and they got to see that (up close), and lot of them even went to the state tournament to watch,” he said. “They were excited about that. Even at districts and regionals, I was looking up in stands and a lot of my freshmen this year, who were eighth graders then, were there watching. I think that put a spark in them and realize, ‘hey this is something I can do too.’
“I know Garrett has the goal to get to the state tournament, as do Pierce and Mark. Tino just missed getting out of districts last year and has the goal to get to regionals. Glasl has a lot of experience at youth level, and I’m sure he has goal get to state tournament as well.”
Grecco will be assisted by Colt Puhala, Bruce Grecco, Curtis Markle and Dave Inzana.
The Rovers open the season Tuesday at home against Ridgway.
Seniors: Jake Allenbaugh, Erik Botwright, Mark Latuska. Juniors: Angelo Inzana, Devin Velez, Pierce Yahner. Sophomores: Bryce Grecco, Matt Holt, Santino Inzana, Garrett McClintick, Elijah Shifter, Justin Smith, Jayden Thompson. Freshmen: Anthony Glasl, Evan Grech, Andrew Hickman, Eric Johnson, Linkin Nichols.