Because of COVID-19 concerns, it may seem like there are more things different for high school wrestling teams in 2020-21 than there are the same.
The offseason was cut way back, masks must be worn in practices and matches, the weights have changed, the season was delayed, in-season tournaments have been canceled and the postseason will have an entirely new look. That’s a lot of new stuff.
One thing that is likely to remain unchanged, however, is that Chambersburg has the talent and experience to make some noise.
The Trojans are coming off a season in which they went 14-8, placed fourth in District 3 to reach the PIAA Team Championships for only the second time, and crowned a PIAA champion in Luke Nichter.
Chambersburg returns nine starters and has added several young wrestlers who are expected to do well in their first varsity season.
“I think we have a solid group coming back,” Trojan coach Matt Mentzer said, “with a lot of district and state caliber kids. I won’t be afraid to put these kids out against anybody. Having said that, five of the six teams in our division (Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley, State College, Mifflin County and Chambersburg) are ranked in the top 25 teams in the state, so there will be a lot of coin-flip matches. It’s certainly a big challenge.”
Four Chambersburg returners from a year ago reached the District 3 Tournament — Tate Nichter (sr., 39-5, won a Section III title, took fifth in districts); Luke Mentzer (so., 24-13, second Section III, fifth districts); Karl Shindledecker (jr., 32-9, second Section III, 2-2 districts); and Anthony Colangelo (sr., 22-15, second Section III, 1-2 districts).
In addition, Nichter and Shindledecker each medaled at the PIAA State Tournament the year before, so they’ll be itching to get back.
The five other returning starters include sophomore Zach Evans (19-15), junior Ryder Davenport (20-17), senior Kelby Mixell (17-18), sophomore Rylan Carter (16-17) and senior Mehki Williams (1-11).
Chambersburg does not have anybody for the 106-pound weight class, so the rest of the lineup should look something like this: 113 — Carter; 120 — Cesar Montolongo (jr., 0-5); 126 and 132 — Mentzer or Shindledecker; 138 — Colangelo; 145 — Tyler Jones (so.); 152 — Mixell; 160 — Davenport; 172 — Nichter or Williams (when Nichter drops); 189 — Aiden Hight (fr.) or Ethan Faytol (so.); 215 — Evans; 285 — Avery Kuhns (so.).
Mentzer said, “At 189, Hight and Faytol are back-and-forth, and one of them could come up to 215 if we bump Evans up.
“I was expecting close to 30 kids out, but we have only 16. Some kids didn’t come out because of COVID. So, we’ll put out our best 12 and go with them. I do think we have some young kids who expect to be state medalists by the time they’re done.”
The offseason was not kind to wrestlers, who use the spring and early summer to test themselves in various tournaments.
Mentzer said, “Usually, our best work is done from the end of March to the end of June. This year, we were able to do maybe 20% of our normal offseason work, and that number’s probably a little high. The kids couldn’t come in to lift and we didn’t have much contact with them. But we did not push the boundaries.”
Scheduling has also been a nightmare, with different schools dealing with different scenarios, and trying to fit matches into gyms with basketball games. Teams can have 18 competitions, which will be all dual meets this year, and finding available schools on the right dates has proven difficult.
At this point, the first match may be a home affair vs. Cumberland Valley on Jan. 14.
“It’s been hard to find 18 dual meets,” Mentzer said. “We hope to have a dual tournament at home with up to six teams, but we’re still working on it.”
NOTES: The postseason will now include sections, districts, regionals, super regionals and states, and not all of the info has been finalized yet … The goal is for the tournaments to be one-day events … There are 13 weight classes in Pennsylvania, instead of 14 — instead of 170, 182, 195 and 220, it is now 172, 189 and 215 … Chambersburg’s MyHOUSE Trojan Wars Tournament had to be canceled; there are very few in-season tournaments being held this year.