The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 24, 2011

Harold Raker's column on high school wrestling: A weighty issue

Warning: this column might anger high school basketball fans.

Well, not all of them. I am a fan, and since I am writing this, I am not angered by it.

So here it is: Wrestlers are the toughest of all high school athletes.

Go to the mall or any other teen hangout on the night before a post-season wrestling tournament. You are likely to see some of the area's high school basketball players having a good time even if they are scheduled to compete in a playoff game the next day. They might even be enjoying a cheeseteak or a banana split.

Look around. If you see anyone wearing a high school wrestling jacket, he (or she) is either already graduated or no longer competing for one reason or another.

If you do see one of the competing wrestlers, it will not be at one of the food stands, and he may even be running instead of walking.

You see officials, as required by PIAA rules, are unforgiving when it comes to making weight at a wrestling tournament. Far be it for me to claim that basketball players are not in shape — of course they are. But there are no weight restrictions to determine if they are eligible to take the court. Yes, some might argue that not all of the 285-pounders are in the best of shape. But even they must adhere to the rules.

Just last week, several wrestlers across the state saw their postseason end before it started because they did not make weight. One of them was returning PIAA Class AAA 130-pound champion Steve Spearman of McDowell (he reportedly dropped in weight to give a teammate a chance to compete).

You want to know what Line Mountain's Travis Erdman was doing last Friday night, on the eve of the District 4 Class AA South Sectional Tournament? He spent part of the evening at Bounce Fun Plex, in Shamokin Dam, a place where most kids go to have fun. For Erdman, it was serious business.

It was the first time this season that the Line Mountain senior had to get his weight down to 142 pounds (to be eligible to wrestle at 140) the next day. He wrestled most of the season at 145, but made the decision to drop for the postseason.

"It was pretty rough. I was at the school Friday night running up until 10 o'clock. I was at the Bounce Plex before that, and I was at practice before that. I was running before school (in the morning)," Erdman said.

Erdman missed last postseason because of a broken hand, when he was the state's No. 3-ranked 140-pounder in Class AA. He doesn't want anything to keep him away this time.

'"I'm going to try to keep my weight down this week, and keep my weight down next week (for the Northeast Regional tournament)," he said.

Erdman attended last year's state tournament and every time his weight class was on the mat, he could only think, "Man, that should be me there on the mat."

But, as much as he loves wrestling and is dedicated to it, he is also anxious for the season to be over, hopefully with him standing on the top of the medals podium in Hershey's Giant Center.

"Only three more weeks and my (high school) career is over," he said. "I can't wait to be able to eat some food again, but it's all worth it."

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