When a wrestling coach can list three returning PIAA placewinners as part of his lineup, that’s a great way to start.
But Chambersburg coach Matt Mentzer has a lot more than senior Luke Nichter (4th), junior Tate Nichter (6th) and sophomore Karl Shindledecker (3rd) at his disposal, and that’s why the Trojans expect to have a very good season again in 2019-20.
The season opens Saturday, when the team hosts the eight-team Chambersburg Duals Tournament. The Trojans will hit the ground running with a key match against Mid Penn Commonwealth contender Mifflin County at 11:30 a.m. in the CASHS Field House.
Chambersburg lost some talent from last year’s squad, which was 15-3 in duals, placed fourth in the District 3 duals and claimed a Commonwealth co-championship, but does have some promising newcomers hoping to fill those spots.
Mentzer said, “I don’t think we’ll fall off as much as some people might think we will, although we do have four kids from last year’s team who are now on college rosters. We have a good, veteran group back and I expect a handful of them to make a big jump this year.”
You can start with the Nichter brothers. Luke will be looking for his fourth PIAA medal in March, which would mark the first time any Trojan has achieved that feat. He was 41-5 a year ago, and he’ll make his final try for a PIAA title at 160 pounds, despite having wrestled at 170 the past two years.
Mentzer said, “Luke went to a training camp at Drexel (where he has committed) in August and came back 10 pounds lighter. He’s at 159 now. He’s lost some body fat and feels even better at this weight.”
Tate Nichter earned his first state medal last year, going 33-7, and was crowned a District 3 champion. He will wrestle at 152 pounds.
Shindledecker entered the postseason last year with an unremarkable 11-8 record, but then he caught fire. He took third in the Section III tourney, third in District 3 and third at states to finish with a 24-11 mark.
“Those three will be our leaders,” Mentzer said, “but for us to be a really good dual meet team, we’re going to need a lot of the other veteran kids to come through, and for the freshmen to adapt to this level of wrestling.”
Two other Trojan seniors who had more than 20 wins are back — Carson Mello (28-10) at 170 and Wyatt Hull (26-12) at 220. Both were district qualifiers a year ago.
The other wrestlers back with experience include senior April Rump at 106 (4-17), juniors Tyler Smith at 126 (8-5), Anthony Colangelo at 132 (11-17), Kelby Mixell at 138 (11-17) and Joey Fuller at 285 (4-17), and sophomore Ryder Davenport at 145 (6-4).
The 182-pound spot will go to either Mehki Williams or Bryce McKenzie (0-5), both seniors.
The other three weight classes will be manned by young wrestlers.
Mentzer’s son Luke Mentzer will be at 106 and Zach Evans is at 195. Both are freshmen who have placed at state junior tournaments. Freshman Rylan Carter and sophomore Cesar Montelongo are vying for the start at 113.
“We shook out pretty well, with the kids spread out nicely to fill all the weights,” Mentzer said.
“We still have 28 kids in the room, which is the most I’ve had here. I think we had five kids come out for the first time and they’re all still here. That’s unusual to have that many last for three weeks. They’re hanging in there.”
As far as the Commonwealth, Central Dauphin is considered the favorite, but not by much. Cumberland Valley, Chambersburg and Mifflin County will be right there and State College and Carlisle are improved.
“The top teams are still as good as ever, but some of the others — including us — have gotten better,” Mentzer said. “Almost anybody could win it. We’re just going to focus on the kids’ individual goals — if we do that, the duals will take care of themselves.”
NOTES: In individual tournaments last year, Chambersburg was second at sectionals, a best-ever third in District 3 and 11th at the state tourney … The Trojans qualified a team-high eight for districts, and sent five to states … Chambersburg won 10 straight matches last year … Graduated seniors in college include Cole Grove (Pitt-Johnstown), Seth Runshaw (Seton Hill), Spencer Runshaw (Shippensburg) and Guy Lozius (Southern Virginia).