CURWENSVILLE — After struggling with numbers the past few seasons, Curwensville has 16 wrestlers on the team for the 2019-20 campaign, which should help the Golden Tide fill a lineup and be more competitive in dual meets. And, it has already improved practice time in the room.
“Our numbers are up a bit from last year, but nothing changes,” said sixth-year head coach Dean Swatsworth. “We still need to work hard every day and win every head-to-head matchup we can. Having numbers does help because you can move people around to get better matchups and better your chance to win the dual meet, but you still have to win matches.
“So far practices have been a lot nicer seeing all the kids in the room and more partners to practice with is a bonus. I am hoping we can get kids moved around so that we can fill a lineup but we will see.”
Among the 16 wrestlers on the team, nine are letterwinners led by seniors Nick Holbert, Zach Holland, Steve McBride, Gage Roos, Caleb Stiles and Adam Straw. Juniors Duane Brady and Jake McCracken and sophomore Jake Carfley round out a solid core of leaders for the Tide to build around.
“This is a great group of kids,” Swatsworth said. “They show up to practice and work hard. They are stepping into that role, leading by example and being leaders on the team.
“I feel that each and every kid brings something different to the table to offer as a leader. Whether it’s leading by example or being a vocal leader, they are coming together to learn what role they play on this team.
“I think this is a reflection of year’s past, but the great thing about this year is these kids are coming together early. We also have some younger kids that come in and work hard and you can see even if they don’t feel they are a leader on this team, they still work hard and are making themselves better every time they step into the room.”
If the Tide can stay away from injuries and the wrestlers are able to make the weights Swatsworth hopes they can, Curwensville should be able to fill 12 or 13 weights at each dual meet and tournament.
Carfley will wrestle at either 106 or 113, while freshman Nikolas Fegert will fill a spot at 120 or 126.
Curwensville has plenty of options between 120 and 132 in Fegert, Stiles, and sophomores Mason Derrick and Mitchell Sutika.
Sophomore Zach Shaffer looks to slot in at 138 with Holland going at 138 or 145. Straw (145-52), sophomore Noah Brady (152-160) and McCracken (160-170) follow.
Dylan Harmic (170), Duane Brady (170-82), Holbert (170-82) and Steven McBride (182-95) man the upper weights with Roos (195), and sophomores Brennen McCarty (195-220) and Matt McBride (220) filling out the heavyweights.
“Even though we have more numbers this year, we are still going to struggle to fill all the weights, so we are going to try and get each kid the best matchup we can every match,” Swatsworth said. “This will help them be better wrestlers and build confidence as the year goes on.
“We have strengths all through our lineup, we just need it to show up day after day and match after match to help us get better. I tell the kids every year, ‘show up every day and push yourself and your teammates, this will help make you a better wrestler and also make your teammates better as well. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.’”
With the numbers being better this season, Swatsworth is hopeful that Curwensville can improve on last season’s 5-14 record, but individual improvement is still the main focus.
“Our goal is to work hard and come in every day trying to be better than we were the day before,” he said. “With our numbers this year being a little better, we are hoping we can match up in our dual meets. We will still look at the head to head matchups and get our kids the best match ups we can.”
As for individual goals, most of the team is simply looking to improve so they and the team can have a solid year and better postseason.
“We have some wrestlers that are pushing themselves so that they can get to that next level of wrestling so that the end of this year turns out better than the end of last year did,” Swatsworth said. “Obviously our younger, inexperienced kids are hoping to do the best they can for themselves and also for the team.”
But there are a couple kids with high aspirations, led by returning District 9 champion Zach Holland.
Holland returned from injury just in time to go 2-0 in the regular season and enter the postseason where he won a district title at 145 before going 1-2 at regionals.
“Zach had a great end of the year last year becoming a District 9 champ and making it to regionals for a third straight year,” Swatsworth said. “His goal this year is to make it to states and have a spot on the podium.”
McCracken is also aiming high this year after a disappointing ending to his sophomore season where he went 2-2 in the district tournament to finish the season with a 17-13 record.
“Jake McCracken is another one who has big goals,” Swatsworth said. “Jake had a great freshman year for us but came up short last year of meeting his goal of making it to regionals last year. I know Jake is working hard and wants to get to that next level this year.”
The Golden Tide did lose a couple key pieces to their lineup in Blake Passarelli and Cole Bressler. Passarelli qualified for PIAAs at 126 after a second-place finish at districts and fourth-place finish at regionals, ending his senior year at 27-10. Bressler was a regional qualifier, placing fourth in districts at 170 and ending his senior season with a 15-10 mark.
But, Swatsworth is hopeful that some of the incoming underclassmen can help offset their losses.
“We have some young talented wrestlers coming up this year that have goals of making some noise throughout the year,” he said.
Swatsworth is being assisted by Johnny Sutika, Chris Folmar, Chris McCracken and Ryan Aughenbaugh
The Golden Tide open their season Dec. 12, hosting Redbank Valley.
Seniors: Nick Holbert, Zach Holland, Steve McBride, Gage Roos, Caleb Stiles, Adam Straw. Juniors: Duane Brady, Jake McCracken. Sophomores: Noah Brady, Jake Carfley, Mason Derrick, Dylan Harmic, Matt McBride, Brennen McCarty, Zach Shaffer, Mitchell Sutika. Freshman: Nikolas Fegert