CURWENSVILLE – A new era in Curwensville Area High School wrestling will be ushered in when the Golden Tide joins seven other teams in the Mountaineer Tournament at Philipsburg-Osceola Saturday.
Dean Swatsworth, a former Golden Tide wrestler, has taken the reins from Duane Wriglesworth II after three seasons as head coach of the Curwensville Junior High School team.
His early-season goal for the 2014-15 squad is to win at least 40 percent of the matches by mid-January to qualify for the District 9 Class AA Team Duals and give the Golden Tide the opportunity to end a string of five losing seasons.
“I’d love to make the team duals,” Swatsworth said. “My long-term goal is to get at least four kids out of districts this year. Last year, we had several who were one match from advancing to the regionals.”
Swatsworth is counting on eight lettermen he inherited from Wriglesworth’s ninth squad and transfer Shae Bloom, who is coming off two outstanding seasons for DuBois Area High School, to make and keep the Golden Tide competitive.
Sam Bressler, 13-5 at 126 will be working on his fourth monogram in a 48-32 career highlighted by a third-place finish at 106 in the 2013 District 9 Class AA Tournament.
Jake Lancaster, the district 126-pound champ in 2013, and Jake Stiles are two-year lettermen. Lancaster finished 18-11 at 132 and 138 last season for a 41-23 career log, while Stiles was 13-17, mostly at 170 where he won nine of his last 15 matches.
Those three seniors and junior Ben Junod, who also came on strong at the end of the season with 11 wins in 14 bouts to post a 14-16 record at 182 and 195, were four of the five Golden Tide matmen who were one win shy of a trip to regionals last March.
Also returning are senior Seth Connors (5-19 at 285) and juniors Jeff Harvey (7-16 at 106), Logan Charles (2-5 at 120) and Hunter Lancaster (12-13 at 152 and 160).
Bloom, who wrestled for the Curwensville junior high team before moving to DuBois, will bolster the Golden Tide middleweights after winning two District 9 Class AAA championships and a Northwest Region title and earning two PIAA Tournament victories for a 70-13 record as a Beaver lightweight standout.
Until many of the wrestlers get down to their certified weights, especially when the two-pound allowance kicks in, Curwensville’s strength at the outset will be from 138 pounds through 195.
Swatsworth said the Golden Tide will open the season with Bressler at 138, Bloom at 145, Jake Lancaster at 152, Hunter Lancaster at 160, promising sophomore Kaleb Witherite at 170, Junod at 182 and Stiles at 195.
Rounding out the lineup will be freshman Anthony Winebold at 113, sophomores Jeremy Gardner at 120 and Ethan Collins at 126, Charles at 132 and junior James Lee at heavyweight.
“It’s gonna be challenging, but it will show us what we are good at and what we have to work on,” Swatsworth said in looking forward to the Mountaineer Tournament that includes Glendale, Punxsutawney, Altoona, Somerset, Central Dauphin East and New Oxford in addition to the host Mounties.
The Golden Tide has no entries at 106 and 220 for Saturday.
Providing depth during the winter will be junior Seth Woolcock, a transfer from Kane, and sophomore Chase Anderson in the lightweights and sophomores Eli Jacobs, Mason Lancaster and Tristen Bressler in the middle weights.
Lee and Connors are very close at heavyweight and probably will be vying for that spot throughout the season.
“We’re gonna have eliminations every week,” Swatsworth said. “That’s important because I want the kids that are right there not to give up. They are can win and be in the lineup any time. I’m gonna put the best wrestler on the mat.”
“My job is to give them every opportunity by putting them in as many situations in practice as they’ll see on the mat. Different situations with different partners because everyone does everything differently.
“I’m just glad to have the opportunity to coach where I grew up and wrestled. I know most of the athletes, most of the families.
“I’m excited for the season to see where it takes us.”
Swatsworth, a four-year letterman and two-time regional qualifier, was on the 2004-05 Golden Tide team that was runner-up in the state tourney.
He was a volunteer coach before becoming the junior high mentor.
His assistants are former Golden Tide standout Johnny Sutika, a 2005 PIAA Class AA bronze medalist who wrestled at Pitt; former head coach Brian Dimmick, whose 2004-05 team was runner-up in the PIAA Class AA tournament, and Chris Folmar.
Sutika and Folmar, who has incorporated a weightlifting program into practice sessions, both helped Swatsworth with the junior high program.
Under Wriglesworth, Golden Tide teams were 59-87 in regular season dual meets and 1-4 in District 9 Class AA Duals.
The roster, including certified weights and (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Sam Bressler (*), 132; Seth Connors (*), 285; Jake Lancaster (*), 145; Jake Stiles (*), 182.
Juniors – Shae Bloom (*), 132; Logan Charles (*), 132; Jeff Harvey (*), 132; Ben Junod (*), 170; Hunter Lancaster (*), 145; James Lee, 220; Seth Woolcock, 113.
Sophomores – Chase Anderson, 120; Tristen Bressler, 152; Ethan Collins, 120; Jeremy Gardner, 113; Eli Jacobs, 138; Mason Lancaster, 138; Kaleb Witherite, 160.
Freshman – Anthony Winebold, 106.
* * * * *
The schedule, with varsity matches to get under way at approximately 7 p.m. unless noted, or immediately following junior high meets that will start at 6 o’clock:
7 – Mountaineer Tournament with Altoona, Central Dauphin East, Glendale, New Oxford, Punxsutawney and Somerset at Philipsburg-Osceola (10 a.m.); 18 – at Ridgway; 23 – JOHNSONBURG; 27 – Big Dog Tournament at Brockway (9 a.m.).
6 – at Punxsutawney; 8 – at Redbank Valley; 13 – CLARION; 15 – GLENDALE; 17 – at Clearfield Duals (8:30 a.m.); 21 – a West Branch; 23 – Fred Bell Tournament at Grove City (4 p.m.); 24 – Fred Bell Tournament at Grove City (8:30 a.m.); 27 – BROOKVILLE; 29 – MOSHANNON VALLEY.
4 – CAMERON COUNTY; 12 – BROCKWAY; 20-21 – District 9 Class AA Tournament at Clarion University; 27-28 – Northwest Region Class AA Tournament at Sharon.
5-7 – PIAA Class AA Tournament at Hershey.