HYDE — Coming into the 2018-19 wrestling season, the Clearfield Bison Wrestling team has a simple philosophy. The key is to put 14 healthy guys on the mat, ready to battle, and not get pinned. “We’ve got to be able to stay off our back and fight off our backs, and if we do that we can beat anybody,” said Bison Head Coach Jeff Aveni. “The opportunity is there. This team is young and talented. We’re at a different level of learning. These guys are going to be exciting and looking to make a name for themselves.”
There are eight returning letterman from last year, but there are also eight underclassmen as well. Those underclassmen have experience and talent. Last year four of them placed at the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Jr High Wrestling Championships (PJW’s), and collectively they placed seventh as a team in the state.
When asked who the leader in the room is this year, Aveni said “This is Caleb’s [Freeland] (career record, 34-28) team, but we’re missing [Jude] Pallo right now and that’s tough. Caleb will have to step up at 152. We’ve seen glimpses of his raw ability over the years. He was in the top six of regionals last year, and many times he’s been within inches or seconds of upsetting some very good wrestlers. This is Caleb’s show. He needs to give these young guys something to strive for. Caleb needs to set the bar.”
At 106 Angelo Maines (8-19) is a greatly improved sophomore and will have a tough time making weight by the end of the year with how much he’s grown at 106. Senior Johnathan Thomas could wrestle anywhere from 106-126. Thomas had a 9-11 record last year.
Nolan Barr is a freshman and will be solid as a 113 pounder. He placed eighth at the PJW Jr High State Championships last year at 107 pounds. Karson Kline also wrestled at PJW’s last year 107 pounds. He will start at 120 pounds, but sophomore Derrick Bender could also wrestle at 120 or 126.
Peyton Smay (24-31) will look to improve on a solid sophomore performance last year where he made it to the second day of regionals. He’s up two weight classes this year at 126 and is a tough grinder. Luke Freeland will start at 132 pounds as a freshman, and sophomore Justin Hand will wrestle at 138 pounds.
Micah Climie, another sophomore, or Bryce Daub will start at 145 this weekend at the season-opening Top Hat tourney because Jude Pallo (46-53) will enter his senior season out with injury. Jude had a successful year last year and eventually wrestled at 126 where he lost out in regionals. He may eventually drop to 138 pounds when he comes back. The 138 pound roster could eventually have four wrestlers who battle for the position with one of them bumping up to 145.
At 160, freshman Mark McGonigal placed fourth at PJW’s last year at 140 pounds. He’s the younger brother of Luke McGonigal, last years’ team captain who finished as a state champion and currently wrestles for Lock Haven.
Cole Smay (19-38) will return to the roster at 170 pounds. Smay missed most of last year due to injury, but he should be healthy and ready to go this year. Brett Zattoni (4-14) is coming into his second season and will bring with him a year of growth and experience at 182 pounds.
Sophomore Nick Domico comes into the varsity this year after placing eighth at PJW’s this past year. Freshman Oliver Billotte also wrestled well at PJW’s last year, placing fourth at 187 pounds, and he’ll be bumping up to 220 this year with Matt Bush.
Finally, Avry Gisewhite (26-36) will begin his senior year bumping up to heavyweight where he should do well. Avry had a solid season in 2018 and made it to the second day of regionals.
As for December, it appears there’s a lot of seasoned wrestling coming to this young team with the Top Hat Tournament and several great rivals in Bald Eagle Area, DuBois and Huntingdon.
District-wise, Clearfield is young and very talented, but DuBois also has a great class that is about two years into their “cycle.” The plus side is that Clearfield’s horses aren’t where DuBois’ are. “We’ve got to win one more match than they do. They don’t have seven horses. They have four or five, and some of those guys are beatable.”
On the whole, the team seems to be in great spirits and young. With great coaching from Jeff Aveni and assistants Andy Squires, Brent Lykens, Nate Sipes and Myles Caragein, the sky really is the limit for this Clearfield Bison Wrestling Team.
|12/07 & 08||Top Hat Tourney|
|01/04 & 05||Tool City Tourney|
|01/15||@ Penns Valley|
|01/19||Bison Duals 2019|
|01/22||Central High School|
|01/25 & 26||Ultimate Warrior Tourney|