Wrestlers must replace five grads
With five wrestlers graduating who combined for over 100 wins last season, the Emmaus wrestling team will look for an injection of new talent while a few of its veterans attempt to take a step forward this season.
First-year head coach Nick LeFevre likes what he’s seen so far and is hopingthe team can improve on last year’s 12-7 record that included a berth in team districts as the No. 11 seed.
“We want to be competitive,” said the Citadel graduate who was part of the Bethlehem Catholic staff last season. “We want to make it back to team districts and to finish higher than last year.
“But our first goal is to get one percent better every day. If we do that, the winning will take care of itself.”
The Hornets return a core of wrestlers including seniors Gabe Ayala (120) and Joey Barno (285), along with junior Peyton Brown (106/113) and sophomore Caden Wright (160).
Brown went 27-6 last year and finished fifth at districts. Wright was 26-6 and took sixth at districts. Barno and Ayala did not compete the district tournament last season. Both were around .500 last year, LeFevre said, and are hungry to make a run in this year’s postseason tournaments.
“Those four guys are the biggest leaders in the wrestling room and in the classroom,” said LeFevre. “They’re guys I want to set an example both on and off the mat.”
Emmaus graduated five wrestlers that all won 18 or more matches last season in Reed Custer (18-4) and Tyler Corpora (24-7), who were both district place winners, and classmates Jacob Alcaro (21-10), Jared Skibinski (23-9) and Chase Pavelko (20-9).
The Hornets hope to make up for those losses with a combination of returning wrestlers and some newcomers.
In the lightweights, freshman Kordell Waiters, a junior high district champ last year, will likely fill in at 106 or 113, while returning junior James Bowie (8-20 last year) and sophomore Brody Pavelko will also be in the mix in the light weights.
Ayala, sophomore Matt Leskowski and returning junior Jake Hexamer will be competing for the 120- and 126-pound weight classes, while junior Dylan Baldwin and returning junior Jackson Karrat, who went 12-13 last year, are slated for the spots at 132 and 138.
Last season Alcaro and Corpora gave the Hornets a tough one-two punch at 138 and 145. Returning junior Chris Tigar will help fill the void at 145 this season.
Sophomore John Velazquez and junior Anuj Anora are battling for the 152-pound. Wright is penciled in at 160.
Freshman Andrew Migliore and junior Liam Dottery are competing for the opening at 170 pounds, while returning junior Bryce Ebinger is likely to take the mat at 182.
LeFevre said there is a group of four or five wrestlers competing in the heavier weight classes, but Barno is locked in as the team’s 285-pounder.
“I expect a huge year from him,” said LeFevre of Barno.
The first-year head coach hopes his team can send a handful of wrestlers to Hershey this year. He likes the team’s work ethic so far and is looking to build the Hornets into one of the better programs in the area, although he knows that doesn’t happen overnight.
The team had over 30 wrestlers come out this season and participation is up all the way through the youth programs.
“When we came in the coaching staff set a few goals,” said LeFevre. “One is to increase numbers. The second was to get kids excited about the sport. And the third is to get back to basics, build confidence and have fun, because you have to enjoy what you’re doing.”
LeFevre’s staff includes Paul Petro, Lance Thatcher, Luke Carty and Jeff Shubzda.
Emmaus opens the season this weekend at the Saucon Valley Invitational and gets the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference season underway Wednesday, Dec. 13 when it hosts Stroudsburg.