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Mitch Rupert on wrestling: A look at some of the best matchups this winter season

The answers as we tried here at the Sun-Gazette to round up winter sports schedules were largely the same. Coaches and athletic directors offered us up what they had with the caveat things were likely to change.

The experiences from the fall high school sports season should be example enough about how all schedules are fluid in an ever-changing world, both from the COVID-19 pandemic and by teams looking for more, and tougher, competition. We can only expect some of the potential matchups wrestling fans are going to be most excited to see will likely be postponed, or even canceled, throughout this sprint of a five-week regular season.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t be excited about them anyway. So let’s look at some of the best matchups scheduled for this upcoming 100-meter dash of a season and hope schools are able to live stream matches the way they did football and soccer games during the fall so we can all enjoy the great competition.

January 14: Benton at Montgomery

Denny Harer will make his debut as the coach of his alma mater Saturday when the Red Raiders host a trio of teams. But this will be Montgomery’s first big test to see just where they are. Benton brings seven state-ranked wrestlers with it for a key Mid-Penn dual. Look for an interesting matchup at 106 pounds where Benton’s Chase Burke is ranked first in the state and Montgomery’s Caden Finck is ranked 17th. Montgomery is coming off a 6-5 season where it qualified for the District 4 Duals and have five returning district qualifiers in the lineup, as well as freshman Conner Harer, who PA Power Wrestling ranked as the third-best freshman in the state. Bottom line, there are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the results of this match.

January 16: Montoursville, Muncy and Hamburg at Southern Columbia

With most individual tournaments canceled this season, teams have taken to multi-team dual events to get in as much competition as possible. This event just so happens to have three top-10 teams. Southern Columbia is ranked third in Class AA coming off three consecutive state duals runner-up finishes. Hamburg comes in ranked ninth in the state with six state-ranked wrestlers. Montoursville is ranked 10th and has three wrestlers who are ranked No. 1 in the state in the preseason (Branden Wentzel, Cael Crebs and Dylan Bennett). And Muncy, although unranked, has the firepower to worry these three opponents with Top-10 wrestlers Bryce Vollman and Scott Johnson, and former state qualifiers Ty Nixon and Ethan Gush returning.

January 29: Brookville, Mifflin County and Southern Columbia at Williamsport

What’s better than three ranked teams in a quad meet? How about four ranked teams? Williamsport has put together a roster in which it is testing itself as much as possible leading into the postseason. Coach Brian Nasdeo went as far in the preseason to say he doesn’t care about his own record, he wants to get his kids quality matches. Well, this is one way to do it. Southern is ranked third in AA, and Brookville is ranked fifth. Mifflin County is ranked 17th in AAA, and Williamsport is ranked 25th coming off its first trip to the state dual-meet tournament. Might we see Trey Kibe vs. Gavin Garcia? Let’s hope so.

February 6: Montgomery at Muncy

This has nothing to do with the wrestling, although the wrestling should be a lot of fun. Harer rebuilt the Muncy program, winning over 200 matches during his time with the Indians, including placing fourth at the PIAA Team Wrestling Championships in 2018. But he did not have his contract renewed following that 2018 season. After leading the Buffalo Valley Regional Training Center for two years, Harer is now the coach at his alma mater, Montgomery. He’ll be coaching against several wrestlers he guided to the state tournament just three seasons ago.

Does any of that really matter? Not really. But if you don’t think it this dual matters to Harer, you’re sorely mistaken.

February 9: Montoursville at Canton

This was a dual meet which was supposed to take place in Ithaca, New York, prior to a Cornell match at some point this season. But with the Ivy League canceling its winter sports season, that idea will be shelved for now. But this is still a dual worth watching about a week before the sectional tournaments. Even without Timmy Ward, who will miss the season after tearing his ACL during football season, this is still a formidable Canton team which is chock full of young talent, as well as returning state qualifiers Hayden Ward and Derek Atherton-Ely. This is as good a non-conference dual as there is on the local schedule this year, and it’s a great way to close out the regular season.

Mitch Rupert covers 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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