LANGHORNE – With a new coach and some new faces taking the mat at Neshaminy, the Skins could make some noise this season in the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference.
Showing them the way will be senior heavyweight Bruce Graeber, a 2-time district champion, and regional and state medal winner in 2015.
“Ever since the season started, we hit the ground running,” said Graeber. “We’re ready to go; we’re going after that SOL title this year.”
Graeber says he’s going for PIAA gold this season and spent his summer working hard in an effort to make sure he gets there.
“Anything short of gold is going to be upsetting to me and everybody around me,” said Graeber.
If he could, first-year head coach Mike Stewart would like to man his roster with 13 more grapplers built in the same mold as his heavyweight.
“He’s in here leading by example more than anything,” said Stewart. “He’s the one that’s going to motivate the wrestlers to be better themselves, especially the freshman.”
With the graduation of several wrestlers who took the mat for Neshaminy last season including Dominick Stabilito (152) and Justin Kramer (132), the Skins are going to need leaders like Graeber to show the newcomers the way.
A pair of freshmen – Colton Jordon (106) and Jackson Erb (120) – are going to bookend sophomore Mike Megahan (113), who went 19-15 last year as a freshman, winning both league and District 1 medals in the postseason.
“Our goal is for these young guys to see that and imitate what Bruce is doing,” said Stewart, of Graeber’s work habits. “They see him working hard – coming in early, leaving late.
“The future of this program is going to be stronger because of people like Bruce.”
Stewart is also enthused about the freshmen in his lineup. Erb’s father is Joe Erb, a former sectional champion at Neshaminy. Both Erb and Jordan are products of the SEPA wrestling program.
“They have great work ethics. They come from wrestling families so they know the sport well,” said Stewart of the two freshmen in the lineup.”
“To be a freshman in a varsity lineup is challenging but I think they’re going to have an edge because they have experience in the sport.”
Both Erb and Jordan got off to a good start in the Battle of Bethlehem Duals Dec. 5 at Bethlehem Liberty High School with Erb going 4-1, with two pins and a major decision and Jordan going unbeaten at 5-0, a string that included four pins. As a team, Neshaminy defeated LaSalle, Southern Lehigh, East Stroudsburg South and Bethlehem Freedom while dropping the last match to Stroudsburg.
While the Skins entered the season without the services of graduates Dominick Stabilito (152), a regional medalist in 2015, and Justin Kramer, a regional qualifier last season, they do have a fair amount of talent returning. The cast includes 2015 regional qualifier Noah Kisselback, a senior at 182 pounds, along with junior Mike Megahan, a district medalist last season.
“Mike (Megahan), Noah (Kisselback) and me are looked to as leaders in the room but through different perspectives,” explained Graeber. “We’re definitely trying to get as many people into regionals as possible.”
“I’m hoping to at least get to states and to get 100 wins,” added Kisselback, who entered the season with 73 wins and started his winter campaign by going 5-0 in the Bethlehem Duals.
Additional returning grapplers for Neshaminy include senior Asaph Alexander (126), junior Vince Stabilito (160), junior Jon Albarran, senior Ben Stern (195) and junior Kyle Osterhoudt at 220. Osterhoudt won a recent wrestle-off with classmate Mike Bremser but has to wait until his weight drops to enter varsity competition.
Any one of those could be due for a breakout season this year. Last season, Stern went 28-11 and took sixth in the district. Kyle Osterhoudt went 16-2 and took fourth at SOLs. Albarran went 14-8 last year in varsity action and Stabilito won 10 of 15 matches last season.
The Skins also have former Council Rock South wrestler Joey Little (152) in their lineup this season. Little failed to make weight at SOLs last season but plans to wrestle at 145 pounds this offseason. Still, Little was a 20-match winner for the Golden Hawks last year.
“I was very happy that we could get Joey into our lineup,” added Graeber. “I’m close with all the people at South so hearing that we were going to get a Golden Hawk certainly made my day.”
Where the ranks wear thin this season at Neshaminy is in the middle. Junior Trevor Gatdula (138), along with sophomores Brock Leinbach (145) and Austin Saba (132) have very little if any varsity experience.
“From 38 to 52, we have bodies but no backups,” said Stewart. “It’s those middle classes where we’re very thin this year so we’re hoping the guys stay healthy.”
Following up with the season opener in Bethlehem, the Skins took first place in the Travis Manion Tournament Dec. 12 at LaSalle College High School. Nine Neshaminy wrestlers made it to the finals with Jordan, Erb, Little, Stabilito, Kisselback and Osterhoudt each earning championship belts.
While the Skins lost 47-25 to CR South in their SOL National Conference opener, they rebounded on Dec. 21 with a convincing 62-10 triumph over Abington.
106 — Colton Jordon; 113 — Mike Megahan; 120 — Jackson Erb; 126 — Asaph Alexander; 132 — Austin Saba; 138 — Trevor Gatdula; 145 — Brock Leinbach; 152 — Joe Little; 160 — Vince Stabilito; 170 — Jon Albarran; 182 — Noah Kisselback; 195 — Ben Stern; 220 — Mike Bremser/ Kyle Osterhoudt; 285 — Bruce Graeber.
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