Injuries not to loosen wrestlers’ grasp

Nathan Bottiger, Sports Editor

Pitt-Johnstown’s wrestlers will have to begin their season with a few injured teammates, and seem to be leaning on depth and experience to overcome the obstacles.

Head Coach Pat Pecora said there are multiple injuries to key wrestlers in the upper weight classes, including sophomore Zak Newton and junior Josh Krupa.

Pecora said injuries always are a problem, but they are part of the sport. He said the team’s depth chart should provide a solution to the problem.

“As long as the injuries are not season-ending, we can deal with it.”

Pecora said the 157-, 165-, and 197-pound classes could also see a few different wrestlers, and could be open to multiple wrestlers in the depth chart.

Pecora said he should have a better idea of how the line-up will look after evaluating the performance at the Washington and Jefferson Invitational last Saturday.

The team has many young wrestlers, with the addition of 16 recruits, and only four seniors out of 47 wrestlers listed on their roster.

The team is also filling spots after all-Americans Nathan Link and Zack Lundgren’s were graduated.

Pecora said the two wrestlers were good leaders, and that the team will need someone to step up and take over their leadership roles.

The team’s three returning all-Americans are junior David Fogle, junior Jack Bachman and sophomore Travis McKillop, as well as junior Gary Lantz, who was a national qualifier last season.

Pecora said Fogle, who placed third at the Division II national tournament last year, would not start the season’s first half because he is focusing on his academics, but should return at some point.

Senior Glenn Wilson should see some mat time while Fogle is out, and may share some mat time with Craig Dawson.

Fogle was the starter at the 125-pound weight class last year, and moved up to 133, leaving the 125-pound spot to Evan Link.

Assistant Coach Shane Valko said he is confident that Link will step into the starting role with ease.

“I think he is going to be an immediate impact for our team.”

Bachman could reach his third straight appearance at the national tournament if everything goes well this season.

He placed eighth at the national tournament at 141-pound in the 2010-11 season, and made an appearance last season.

Bachman is bumping up to the 149-pound class for this season, but he said he has felt strong since the change.

“I’m ready to see how I feel at 149 since I moved up a weight class, but I’ve been working hard and I feel great about the season.”

Pecora said he has high hopes for McKillop, who did not take a red shirt for his freshman season.

“He looks fantastic in practice,” Pecora said.

McKillop had a 22-7 overall record and finished seventh at the Division II national tournament.

McKillop said he thinks this season will go well, and that the goals for this season is for the team to win the regional title, which they could not do last year and also to be one of the top five teams in the nation.

“We are working real hard as a team, and a lot of us seem focused on our goals.”

Jon Moore, listed as a senior on the roster, may also make an appearance this season at the 197-pound weight class. Moore has only one semester left at Pitt-Johnstown.

The team’s first dual meet is Nov. 16 at West Liberty (W. Va.) University. The team is not scheduled to play a home match until Dec. 4 where they are to wrestle East Stroudsburg University.

Bachman said the wrestlers have been focusing practices primarily on continuous movement, and have also worked some on all three positions.

Pitt-Johnstown was ranked 11th in the NCAA Division II National Wrestling Coaches Association National Poll.

Valko said he thinks this season will go well despite injuries and young age because the team has talented wrestlers.

“We are going to open eyes and shock the nation.”