Pecaitis reflects on wrestling's golden age

Published: 1/11/2017 11:00 AM
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Wrestling has become, in recent years, more and more a sport of haves and have-nots. That’s on full display in our area this season, with Southern Columbia and Line Mountain representing the haves and Shamokin and Mount Carmel the have-nots.

Southern (8-0) and Line Mountain (9-0) may be on a collision course for the District Four AA Duals title. Mount Carmel is only 1-1 in dual meets so far, and Shamokin is 1-8, and the Indians, in particular, are having trouble filling weight classes.

Even more interesting, is the fact of how relatively quickly these things can change. Sports Editor Tim Zyla’s story last week on Jaret Lane and Todd Lane, Southern’s Co-Athletes of the Week, noted that it was only about five years ago that the Tigers were 3-18. Similarly, Shamokin had a good cycle of several seasons with multiple state placewinners a few years back, and Mount Carmel was good enough to make it to the state duals.

Pennsylvania was perhaps the original hot bed of high school wrestling, and is still probably the top wrestling state in the nation. But some of the schools that built that tradition have fallen on hard times in recent years (Shamokin, Trinity (District 7), Clearfield, and State College come to mind) even while the sport continues to grow on the national level. Filling out 14 weight classes isn’t a problem at some places; around here it is, even at the stronger schools.

Former Mount Carmel Area head coach Frank Pecaitis has been kind enough to share with The News-Item much of an exhibit he put together for the Mount Carmel Public Library last year. It recalls a time when the Red Tornadoes’ program was building and becoming a power in its own right, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the sport was still very much in the public consciousness and dual meets between powerful teams routinely sold out gymnasiums. Wrestling rooms were full, with as many as 40 or 50 wrestlers vying for 12 weight classes and full JV teams.

From 1964-65, Pecaitis’ first season, through 1970-71, the Red Tornadoes were 75-20-1, including a three-year string (1966-69) when they were 37-3-1. The 1968-69 team was 12-1, won the school’s first Southern Sectional title and was led by 165-pound state champion Bob Sacavage. Remember, this was before the split into AA and AAA classes, and when one postseason loss knocked you out of the postseason altogether.

The Red Tornadoes’ only loss in that 12-1 season was to neighboring Shamokin, 21-17, but Mount Carmel, wrestling an independent schedule, beat two league champs that season, Line Mountain, 24-23, and North Schuylkill, 26-18, and had beat Shamokin the season before, 30-15.

In a speech inducting the 68-69 team into the Ed Romance Chapter of the Pa. Sports Hall of Fame, Pecaitis said, “...we had so many good wrestlers on the team that year that we had tremendous competition in the wrestling room every day at practice. As a coach I had lots of flexibility with strategy that year to assemble a lineup to challenge the strengths and exploit the weaknesses of our competition.”

Forty-plus years down the road, Pecaitis is happiest about the fact that those teams produced teachers, lawyers, judges, doctors, military personnel and other professionals who contributed greatly to society in the ensuing decades.

NE Region rankings

Four area wrestlers are ranked first in their weight classes in the latest Northeast Region AA rankings (Districts Four and Two) by Tom Elling’s Pennsylvania Wrestling. Line Mountain’s Matty Coller (106) and Brian Earlston (132) and Southern Columbia’s Jaret Lane (113) and Todd Lane (145) are the top-ranked wrestlers.

Rankings for each weight class, with top three, plus other area wrestlers, with their records, as of Jan. 2, are as follows:

106: 1. Matty Coller, Line Mountain, 9-3; 2. Jacob Blair, Muncy, 12-1; 3. Luke Gorg, Hughesville, 11-2; 7. Luke Adzema, Mount Carmel, 3-1.

113: 1. Jaret Lane, Southern Columbia, 5-0; 2. Wyatt Lutz, Montoursville, 5-2; 3. A.J. Burkhart, Athens, 10-2.

120: 1. Cole Rhone, Benton, 14-3; 2. Trey Heiss, Warrior Run, 10-1; 3. Shane Casey, Southern Columbia, 5-2.

126: 1. Jeremy Hanford, Warrior Run, 12-0; 2. Cole Hauck, Line Mountain, 9-2; 3. Colin Pasone, Meyers, 16-1; 9. Jake Renn, Southern Columbia, 5-1.

132: 1. Brian Earlston, Line Mountain, 9-2; 4. Devin Pietkiewicz, Shamokin, 10-3; 8. Mike Miner, Southern Columbis, 2-2.

138: 1. Brian Courtney, Athens, 6-0; 2. Noah Stamm, Milton, 6-5; 3. Collin Klinger, Line Mountain, 11-4.

145: 1. Todd Lane, Southern Columbia, 6-0; 2. Michael Stuart, Benton, 9-6; 3. Gage Cannavino, Athens,7-2.

152: 1. Josh Haley, Wyalusing, 16-1; 2. Kaidon Winters, Athens, 11-1; 3. Kenny Boyer, Line Mountain, 9-3.; 12. Tommy McDonald, Mount Carmel, 2-2.

160: 1. Creighton Edsell, Wyalusing, 4-0; 2. Jake Carpenter, Shamokin, 9-3; 3. Jeremy Bergold, Meyers, 12-4; 5. Preston Zachman, Southern Columbia, 2-2.

170: 1. Nate Bradley, Athens, 8-3; 2. Kyle Bennett, Montoursville, 7-0; 3. Trey Delbaugh, Lewisburg, 6-1; 6. Anthony Scicchitano, Southern Columbia, 4-1.

182: 1. Zach Zimmerman, Troy, 13-1; 2. Andrew Shedleski, Lewisburg, 7-1; 3. Ryan Kipp, Wyalusing, 13-2; 7. Ethan Long, Line Mountain, 8-7.

195: 1. Gavin Hoffman, Montoursville, 8-0; 2. Max Mason, Jersey Shore, 5-3; 3. Ivan Balavage, Scranton Prep, 9-0; 7. Manus McCracken, Mount Carmel, 5-1.

220: 1. Jarrett Walters, Danville, 9-0; 2. Cole Fuller, Western Wayne, 3-2; 3. Hunter Poust, Muncy, 11-0; 4. Andrew Bell, Southern Columbia, 5-2; 7. Wes Shurock, Mount Carmel,7-1.

285: 1. Crae McCracken, Loyalsock, 1-0; 2. Garrett Kieffer, Line Mountain, 5-2; 3. Dawson Otis, Wyalusing, 14-2; 9. Connor Fulmer, Southern Columbia, 5-1.

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