Mitch Rupert on wrestling: Andrews putting together best season of his career

Cameron Andrews wrestles with no fear. It’s showing in his results.

It’s a new feeling for the North Penn-Liberty senior. He’s always been a solid wrestler, but even at his best a year ago when he won 25 matches, hints of doubt would creep into his mind even when he was winning.

That doesn’t happen anymore. Maybe it’s because in his final year of high school wrestling he’s learned to let everything go. Maybe it’s because the work he put in during the summer in the weight room has allowed him to be more confident. Or maybe it’s because the beatings his brother Charlie, who wrestles at Division I Campbell, have forced him to elevate his game to another level.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle of a Venn Diagram of all those factors. Regardless of the reason, Andrews is putting together the best season of his career for North Penn-Liberty. He enters today’s Iron Hammer Invitational at Danville with a 17-1 record and the second-ranked 182-pounder in the Northeast Regional.

A year after seeing his season end disappointingly at the District 4 tournament, Andrews has his sights set a few weeks beyond districts. A momentous run of success for individuals at North Penn-Liberty begun by his brother in 2016 is something he wants to carry forward. He’s looking to be the Mounties’ third state qualifier in the last four years. And being just the second wrestler in North Penn-Liberty history to reach the state podium wouldn’t be so bad either.

“I feel way more confident in what I’m doing,” Andrews said after a 4-1 day at the Flynn Propane Duals last weekend. “Before I wasn’t sure if I should do certain things. But now I’m confident in my abilities and I’m not hesitant.”

It’s that exact lack of hesitation which has left Andrews with a 5-1 record against state-ranked wrestlers this season. His only loss was last week to West Scranton state qualifier Jeremy Seymour, who is ranked 11th in the state in Class AAA.

Otherwise, Andrews has posted two wins over 20th-ranked Tyler Williams of Troy, a win over 17th-ranked Eric Johnson of Brockway and a win over 19th-ranked Danny Lawrence of Mahanoy Area.

But none of those equaled the importance of a 2-1 win he posted over Muncy’s Mike Kustanbauter at the Bob Rohm Duals two weeks ago. It’s the kind of win over a marquee wrestler he just didn’t have on his ledger a year ago. At the time, Kustanbauter, a returning regional qualifier, was ranked 10th in the state and Andrews was 20th. That victory alone moved Andrews up eight spots in the state rankings.

It was the kind of win which helped vault his confidence to the level it is now. In that match, Andrews controlled the action from neutral, scoring the bout’s lone takedown. He wasn’t afraid to fire off a shot to get the pivotal takedown. He wrestled free of the fear which paralyzed him at times in the past. Win or lose, he was going to go out firing.

“I thought he controlled a lot of that match,” North Penn-Liberty coach Eric Pequignot said. “Cameron’s extremely tough on top and he’s always had confidence in himself, but he was a little shy to pull the trigger.”

Part of what has helped Andrews take that next step is rolling around with his brother. Charlie wrestles for Cary Kolat at Campbell and has brought what he’s learned home to beat up on his younger brother. But it’s those beatings and the work in the mental aspect of the sport which have hit home with the younger Andrews.

Charlie was home during the week of the Bob Rohm Duals and he was able to get into Cameron’s head and prepare him for the bout. A workout partner like that is invaluable to Cameron, who just doesn’t have a workout partner of that caliber in his room every day.

“I have good partners, but nothing quite like Charlie,” Andrews said. “Getting these tough matches and proving to myself that I’m able to do this is important.”

Belief in himself and his capabilities are how Andrews has gone from 25-win wrestler who went 2-2 at the district tournament a year ago to being ranked in the Top 12 in the state and being a favorite to take one of the Northeast Region’s four state qualifying spots at 182.

He carries himself with confidence on and off the mat. He looks at his one loss to Seymour as a disappointing revelation, as opposed to just another pothole in the street of the season.

But Pequignot recognizes the importance of the caliber of wins Andrews has posted through the first month of the season. He’s always quick to talk to his wrestlers about mistakes when they come off the mat. But when Andrews walked off the mat after his win over Kustanbauter, Pequignot didn’t say a word. He wanted his senior to take some time to enjoy the moment.

“We’ve talked a lot since then about how big of a win that was,” Pequignot said. “We’ll do what we can to continue to get him on good kids as well. When we wrestle Athens coming up here, I hope they bump (David) Galasso up to wrestle Cameron. We just pulled in Bellefonte on our schedule and we’re looking for some other teams that have good matchups for him who might have some points left.”

What Andrews has done to this point in the season has been eye-opening. But he wants it all to end with a trip to Hershey in March. He watched Kriner become the first North Penn-Liberty wrestler to place at the state tournament a year ago. He wants to be the second, and he wants to be the highest-placing state medalist in his school’s history.

“This year I’m expecting to go the distance,” Andrews said. “But I still have to keep grinding. I can’t let up at all.”

WRESTLER OF THE WEEK: Mario Barberio, Muncy, 138 pounds — It would have been argument enough to talk about the 5-2 win Barberio posted over Quakertown state qualifier Domenic DeFalco last week at the Zephyr Duals. But the junior went ahead and enhanced his resume by knocking off state placewinner and second-ranked Nate Higley of Sullivan County on Thursday night in a dual meet. Barberio is putting together the best season of his career and has already posted 20 wins this season. He’s 13-1 in dual meets and is just seven wins away from 100 in his career.

CAN’T-MISS MATCH OF THE WEEK: Mifflinburg at Williamsport, Tuesday, 7 p.m. — Williamsport’s lineup is getting healthier with the recent returns of Carter Dawson, Riley Hilner and Ethan Williamson. This is a Mifflinburg team which is going to be in contention for one of District 4’s three qualifying spots to the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships next month. This should be a fantastic battle which should showcase a great battle at 113 pounds between Braden Bower and Gabe Gramly, a match Bower won at the season-opening Top Hat, 2-1.

SUN-GAZETTE AREA RANKINGS

106

1. Bobby Gardner, S. Williams.

2. Kayden Frame, Montoursville

3. Derek Keen, Central Mtn.

4. Kaden Majcher, Warrior Run

5. Kaiden Wagner, Lewisburg

113

1. Braden Bower, Williamsport

2. Taylor Weaver, Central Mtn.

3. Xan Oberheim, Montoursville

4. Chase Crawley, Muncy

5. Blake Snyder, Montgomery

120

1. Johnny Shreffler, Central Mtn.

2. Riley Bower, Williamsport

3. Kyler Crawford, Milton

4. Noah Hunt, Warrior Run

5. Broc Lutz, Montoursville

126

1. Dalton Bechdel, Central Mtn.

2. Bryce Vollman, Muncy

3. Carter Dawson, Williamsport

4. T.J. Walter, Milton

5. Ben Heinrich, Hughesville

132

1. Nate Higley, Sullivan Co.

2. Riley Hilner, Williamsport

3. Landon Lorson, S. Williams.

4. Matt Carpenter, Williamson

5. Gavin Sheriff, Lewisburg

138

1. Mario Barberio, Muncy

2. Luke Gorg, Hughesville

3. Cody Coleman, Central Mtn.

4. Devon Deem, Montgomery

5. Logan Bartlett, Lewisburg

145

1. Christian Good, Muncy

2. Lane Porter, Central Mountain

3. Colton Ammerman, Sullivan Co.

4. Spencer Marquardt, S. Williams.

5. Colby Puderbach, Montgomery

152

1. Coleman Good, Muncy

2. Cael Crebs, Montoursville

3. Alonzo Henry, Central Mtn.

4. Caleb Dixon, Hughesville

5. Jason Valladares, Milton

160

1. Anthony Robinson, Williamsport

2. Caleb Porter, Central Mtn

3. Ty Nixon, Muncy

4. Chantz McCloskey, S. Williams.

5. Christian Ward, Canton

170

11. Hunter O’Connor, Jersey Shore

2. Dylan Bennett, Montoursville

3. Ethan Gush, Muncy

4. Garrett Storch, Canton

5. Aven Ayala, Milton

182

1. Cameron Andrews, N.P.-Liberty

2. Mike Kustanbauter, Muncy

3. David Tomb, Jersey Shore

4. Gage Sutliff, Central Mtn.

5. Derek Atherton-Ely, Canton

195

1. Gable Crebs, Montoursville

2. Nikolas Miller, Central Mtn.

3. Roch Minnich, N.P.-Liberty

4. Hoyt Bower, Warrior Run

5. Dan Beckley, Montgomery

220

1. Cameron Wood, Montoursville

2. Dakotah Snyder, Lewisburg

3. Tanner Riggle, Central Mtn.

4. Trevor Williams, Canton

5. Cael Hembury, Muncy

285

1. Jacob Edwards, Central Mtn.

2. Hunter Robbins, Hughesville

3. Nevin Rauch, Milton

4. Ethan Williamson, Williamsport

5. Jaden Fantini-Hulslander, Can.

Top 5 Team

1. Central Mountain

2. Muncy

3. Montoursville

4. Williamsport

5. Hughesville

Top 10 Pound-for-Pound

1. Gable Crebs, Montoursville

2. Braden Bower, Williamsport

3. Cameron Wood, Montoursville

4. Hunter O’Connor, Jersey Shore

5. Dakotah Snyder, Lewisburg

6. Nate Higley, Sullivan County

7. Cameron Andrews, N.P.-Liberty

8. Jacob Edwards, Central Mtn.

9. Mario Barberio, Muncy

10. Dylan Bennett, Montoursville

Mitch Rupert covers high school wrestling for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 570-326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at mrupert@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.

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