NORTHAMPTON – Council Rock South returns to the mat this season without the services of Ben Kenis and Thaison Nguyen. The good news is that the defending Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference champion Golden Hawks have plenty of talent remaining on the roster.
Wrestlers returning to the varsity mat at South include senior Dylan Schwartz, juniors Joe Doyle and Zack Trampe along with sophomore Ben Radner. All were state qualifiers last season.
Add in senior Lucas Martoccio and junior Riley Palmer, who was disqualified from competing last postseason when he failed to make weight at SOLs, and you have a very solid core group that can lead the Hawks in the current campaign.
South is coming off a season where it finished a runner-up in both District 1-AAA Duals and in the individual competition. In duals, the Hawks outpaced Spring-Ford 33-23 in order to reach the finals where they lost in the last match to Boyertown.
“We should be back to where we were last year,” said Martoccio. “I think we can win (district duals) this year and have a better trip out at states than we did last year.”
Helping the Hawks’ cause this year is senior heavyweight John Anderson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. And Andrew Short, a 5-10, 275-pound lineman for the CR South football team, should also see some time on the varsity mat.
As a senior who medaled in districts last season after finishing fourth, Martoccio is among the team leaders, though he’s not alone. A District 1 and Southeast Regional champion at 152 pounds, Schwartz is coming off a season in which he posted a record of 42-7. A District 1 champion and both regional and PIAA runner-up at 126 pounds, Trampe went 45-5 last season.
A third place finisher in districts last year, Doyle went 26-13 and made it to both regions and states. The year before, Doyle didn’t make it out of sectionals. Doyle attributed his improvement last season to his teammates.
“With all the guys pushing me – last year, Thaison and Kenis pushing me hard – in each and every practice, it got me a lot better,” said Doyle.
Coming off a freshman campaign in which he went 27-11, Radner was a District 1 runner-up and a fourth-place medalist in regions who also went to states. After coming up short of a medal in states last year, Radner has high hopes for this season.
“I want to get on the podium this year in states,” said Radner. “Obviously, the goal is to be up there and be on top but you have to work hard if you want to get there.”
According to Martoccio, every grappler is working hard to return to last season’s level of competition this year.
“All of the upperclassmen are now at the point where they want to win,” said Martoccio, who went 30-12 last year and just missed a trip to states when he got nipped 3-2 by Boyertown 145-pounder Hunter Vogels in regionals. “They want to make it far into the postseason so we’re all pushing each other.”
While there is plenty of returning talent, a lot of guys are moving up the scale as they grow. After competing the last two years at 106 and 113, Riley is jumping all the way up to 132. And that’s a good place for the junior to land, with the departure of 2015 grad Robbie Fasciocco.
Last year, before the start of SOLs, Palmer missed weight by 4/10 of a pound, disqualifying him from the tournament as well as the remainder of the postseason.
“I take full responsibility for that; I still feel like I let my team down,” said Palmer. “That’s caused me to work even harder this year.
“I was mad about what happened but I can’t change the past. But I can fix the future and make it even better.”
Really, Palmer could have helped his team score more than 152 points in districts but even a championship at 106 pounds would not have gotten the Golden Hawks a title belt. That’s because 2015 champion Pennridge had four D-1 champs and a pair of runners-up while South had just two champs and one runner-up.
Palmer isn’t the only one jumping up the weight scale. Doyle is moving up to 195 pounds and Palmer’s twin brother Cary is vying for a spot at 126.
With Riley vacating the lightweight position he held down the last two years, that leaves an opening at 106 pounds where sophomore Colin Waterman, along with freshmen Max Mendes and Braden Ricchini are battling.
There are other spots to fill. For instance, who will take the spot vacated by 2015 grad Joe Little, who started last season at 152 pounds and ended it with wins in the postseason over Spring-Ford senior Matt Krieble, a regional medalist last year, and North Allegheny junior Jake Hinkson, a state medalist in 2015?
That will all be decided during wrestle-offs set for Monday, Nov. 30 at the Hawks’ Nest.
While things are changing this year on the mat for the Golden Hawks, there’s one thing that always seems to remain a constant – Council Rock South will be a force to contend with, in the SOL, and beyond.
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