CURWENSVILLE – Injuries to two of the seven lettermen, as well as a third wrestler, have compounded a numbers problem that has the Curwensville Area High School mat team facing an uphill battle to start the 2009-10 season.
With underclassmen returnees Greg Koptchak (wrist) and Jake Keller (leg) missing pre-season workouts and senior Matt Schultz (knee) lost for the season, coach Duane Wriglesworth and his staff face the challenge of juggling a squad of only 14 wrestlers early on, including just two heavyweights for the last four weight classes.
Derek Brothers, who owns pairs of District 9 and Northwest Region titles and has earned two PIAA Class AA medals, is one of four senior letterwinners who will provide most of the experience for the Golden Tide in the season-opening Penn Manor Tournament Friday and Saturday at Millersville, near Lancaster.
Brothers, fifth in the state at 119 pounds last March, has racked up at least 32 wins in each of his three standout seasons en route to a 99-19 record that leaves him 24 wins away from the No. 1 perch on Curwensville\’s all-time win list.
Brett Sutika, another three-year veteran with a low of 16 wins and a 53-39 career mark, Wes McGarry and Jonathan Michaels are the other seniors with extensive experience. McGarry has two letters and 20 victories, while Michaels is coming off an 11-win campaign.
Junior middleweight Kyle Kyler is the seventh returnee.
Curwensville, which will bank on freshman Jordan Russell at 103, figured to be strongest in the lightweights with Koptchak certified at 112 and Keller and Brothers certified at 119, but they won\’t be at full strength until at least mid-season. Freshman Nate Wriglesworth (119) is the lone back-up.
Sutika (130), McGarry (135) and Kyler (145) will anchor the middleweight corps that includes sophs Jason Baker, Chad Desmett, Alex Holland, Alex Holt and Matt Ross and freshman Hunter McCracken.
Michaels (189) and senior Brian Zemba (215) are the only heavyweights.
The Golden Tide is booked for 10 dual meets, the first of five home appearances Jan. 8 against Punxsutawney. The Coudersport Duals and Clearfield Duals will double their total matches.
Curwensville has registered four consecutive winning regular seasons for a 32-21 record and, counting appearances in the District 9 Class AA Duals, an overall 33-24 log under Wriglesworth.
His assistants are Chuck Shaffer and Steve Keller, who also will help junior high head coach Mike Bookhamer.
The 2008-09 team that finished 13-8 had seven seniors, including four-year lettermen Jeff Thomas (72-27) and Tyler Peters (64-34) and three-year lettermen Nathan Russell (62-31), Duane Wriglesworth III and Walter Koontz. Justin Smith earned two monograms, while Jeff Smallwood was 18-9 after transferring from Clearfield.
Thomas won a District 9 crown and qualified for the state tourney as Northwest Region runner-up.
Koptchak and Keller missed advancing to the regionals with Brothers and Thomas when they lost in the consolation finals for fourth-place finishes at districts.
The roster, with asterisk denoting letterwinners:
Seniors – Derek Brothers*, 119; Wes McGarry*, 135; Jonathan Michaels*, 189; Matt Schultz, 152; Brett Sutika*, 130; Brian Zemba, 215.
Juniors – Greg Koptchak*, 112; Kyle Kyler*, 145.
Sophomores – Jason Baker, 135; Chad Desmett, 152; Alex Holland, 145; Alex Holt, 130; Jake Keller*, 119; Matt Ross, 130.
Freshman – Hunter McCracken, 130; Jordan Russell, 103; Nate Wriglesworth, 119.
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The schedule, with home matches to get under way at approximately 7:30 p.m. or immediately following the junior high meets that will start at 6 o\’clock:
18-19 – at Penn Manor Tournament, Millersville
22 – at Brockway
5 – at Johnsonburg
8 – Punxsutawney
9 – at Coudersport Duals
13 – Redbank Valley
19 – at Moshannon Valley
21 – Ridgway
23 – at Clearfield Duals
26 – at Brookville
29-30 – at Fred Bell Tournament, Grove City
4 – West Branch
9 – at Clarion
16 – Clearfield
26-27 – District 9 Class AA Tournament at Clarion University
5-6 – Northwest Region Class AA Tournament at Sharon High School
11-13 – PIAA Class AA Tournament at Hershey Giant Center