The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 11, 2014

Harold Raker's high school wrestling column: Talk of the crown


Daily Item

---- — I hate to do this in my first column of the season, but I am asking your indulgence while I rant about something that I will loosely relate to high school wrestling.

After watching an incredible BCS national championship game that even the accidental comedian, ABC's Brent Musburger, could not tarnish, I made the mistake of staying up for the post-game interviews.

When you are watching great athletes making incredible plays it is easy to get lost in the entertainment value of the game.

Then they ask these athletes to speak in public.

And when you listen to these stars butcher the language so badly you're not sure if they are still speaking English, it hits you like an Aaron Rodgers spiral at close range: These are not college students, at least not in the true sense of the term.

Oh, did I say I would tie this to high school wrestling? Yes, but not just wrestling, instead all high school sports. In fact, make that all youth sports.

When you hear these guys, and you are in my profession, you can't wait to interview a high school wrestler. Or a Bucknell, Susquehanna or Bloomsburg University athlete. Consider it a cleansing.

The funny thing is, as I arrived in the office the next day and checked my email, there was one from Jim Dalpezzo, a friend in the Lehigh Valley, and ardent supporter of small-school football, particularly Susquehanna.

He also emailed to rant about those BCS interviews. So there at least two of us who found these comments disgusting.

Dalpezzo also made the point that allowing those guys to speak in front of a national television audience is an affront to all Florida State University graduates. Well, maybe not the ones who are now playing football on Sundays.

Agree or not, if you are still reading, thank you for your time.

Moving on…As usually happens at this time of year, my time to watch wrestling has been limited. The only action I saw was in the recent inaugural Phil Lockcuff Duals.

What an incredible day it was, and the honoree, the late Shikellamy teacher and coach, was deserving of the accolades.

I didn't think the Shikellamy School District board of directors and officials would ever agree to name the facility for anyone. This is a school that has to date resisted calls for the establishment of a Shikellamy Athletic Hall of Fame.

Maybe there is still hope.

n Coming up today

Fans wanting to see three teams from the Valley -- and several more from across the state -- compete in one venue on the same day should enjoy today's first of two Line Mountain Duals.

In addition to the host Eagles, the tournament also brings in Union County rivals Mifflinburg and Lewisburg, the latter coached by Line Mountain alum Jim Snyder.

Action gets under way at 10 with Lewisburg taking on North Star, Lewisburg versus Norristown and Mifflinburg facing Pottsville.

The final round starts at 4 p.m. and each team will wrestle five times.

The tournament will feature a number of wrestlers who are ranked statewide by Off the Mat. They are: Brian Friery, Lewisburg, No. 1 (106); Cameron Newman, Line Mountain, No. 15 (120); Cole Walter, Mifflinburg, No. 3 (152); Max Reed, Lewisburg, No. 16 (160); Connor Hunter, North Star, No. 15 (182); Connor Route, Canton, No. 6 (220); and Nazar Mironenko, Mifflinburg, No. 5 (285).

In addition, Norristown brings in a pair of returning PIAA Class AAA qualifiers in Mike Springer (145) and Rashon Lusane (152).

If you want to travel, Benton will compete today in the prestigious National High School Coaches Association Final Four Wrestling Festival at the York Expo Center. There will be 19 teams from four states. They will include powers Blair Academy (N.J.) and Wyoming Seminary. Blair is ranked No. 1 in the country by WIN Magazine and Seminary is No. 5.

Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. with finals starting at 4:45.

n Sports editor Harold Raker covers high school wrestling for The Daily Item. Email comments to hraker@dailyitem.com.