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Montoursville's Batkowski chooses Penn State

May 3, 2012 - Mitch Rupert

David Batkowski was all ready to wrestle at Maryland. It's kind of a family tradition to be a Terrapin, and the Montoursville senior liked the campus and wrestling head coach Kerry McCoy.

But then he got an innocuous message from former Montoursville teammate Luke Frey saying the coaches at Penn State were interested in Batkowski becoming a Nittany Lion. The two-time PIAA placewinner and three-time PIAA qualifier had previously filled out a recruiting questionnaire on the Penn State Web site, but had never heard back from the coaching staff.

That changed after Batkowski took third at 138 pounds at the PIAA Class AA tournament, giving eventual state champion Michael Racciato of Pen Argyl his toughest bout of the tournament in the semifinals.

After being told by Frey that the Nittany Lion coaching staff was now interested, Batkowski spoke with assistant Cody Sanderson and after a visit to State College, Batkowski passed up on the family tradition of attending Maryland to wrestle at Penn State beginning in the fall.

"There was no place I'd rather be," Batkowski said. "It was a quick thing. One phone call and I could have said yes right there, but I had to check things out."

Batkowski is one of four Penn State recruits for next year according to Intermat's college commitment database. Batkowski joins Grove City state champion Wes Phipps, Juniata state champ Zack Beitz and Derry's four-time state champion Jimmy Gulibon as Penn State signees.

The senior hasn't wrestled since the state tournament in March after he needed surgery to repair a broken nose he sustained against Tri-Valley's Blake Bowman in his first match at states. He's spent his time in the weight room in order to get bigger because he's likely going to wrestle at 149 pounds when he gets to State College.

He's had opportunities to wrestle on a number of off-season teams, but has declined in order to make sure he gets bigger by the fall. Batkowski started his senior season at Montoursville at 145 pounds, suffering his only loss of the regular season in the semifinals of the season-opening Top Hat tournament, before dropping to 138 pounds for the second half of the season.

Batkowski finished his career with a third-place finish at the state tournament. His only two losses were two Racciato, a two-time state champion, and Hughesville's Kyle Barnes, a state finalist at 145 pounds. He finished his career with a 106-20 record despite missing better than 90 percent of his sophomore season after injuring his back during football season.

He's well aware of difficult the task is going to be to break into the Nittany Lions' starting lineup. Penn State returns 2012 national champions Ed Ruth and David Taylor along with 2011 national champion Quentin Wright. Add in national finalist Nico Megaludis and returning All-American Dylan Alton and it doesn't leave many open spots. Andrew Alton will likely return to the starting lineup at 149 pounds this year after taking a redshirt season.

But Batkowski's is more excited about the potential in just improving his wrestling. He remembers working out with Frey after he returned from just a summer of working out with his Penn State coaches and teammates. The tactician that Frey was as a former PIAA champion was still there, but everything was done with more power.

Batkowski has never been a year-round wrestler. He tried wrestling freestyle in elementary school but didn't like it, so he focused on folkstyle while playing football and baseball up through his sophomore year of high school. He's confident that turning to a year-round wrestling schedule is going to help him improve to the wrestler he feels like he's capable of being.

"It's Penn State. The whole team is full of studs. Each year I don't start, I'll just be able to think about how much better I'll get," Batkowski said. "I've never done freestyle and Greco-Roman and everything like that is going to make me so much better. Even just being a year-round guy is going to make me better."


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