2008-09 York College Wrestling Preview

The 2008-2009 edition of the York College wrestling team is primed for another strong campaign under the direction of head coach Tom Kessler.  Kessler, the most winning coach in the wrestling program’s nearly 40-year history, enters his seventeenth season at the helm of the Spartan squad looking for it to be one of the best to date.

Last season York posted a solid 14-6 dual meet record, winning the King’s College Monarch Tournament and placing second at their own Spartan Invitational. The green and white went on to grab the fourth spot at the Metropolitan Conference Championships, sending a trio of wrestlers to the NCAA National Tournament. The outlook is bright for the 2008-2009 season as the Spartans only lost a trio of seniors to graduation, return a slew of quality wrestlers, including a pair of NCAA qualifiers, and welcome an excellent recruiting class.

“We have strength up and down our lineup and many very talented wrestlers,” Kessler said. “We have a former All-American, a pair of NCAA qualifiers, and several student-athletes who could have breakout seasons. If everything works out and we get some breaks this could be a special season.”

The All-American Kessler speaks of is 133-pound senior Kyle Flickinger, currently ranked #5 in the NWCA Brute – Adidas Division III preseason poll. A two-time Metropolitan Conference champion, Flickinger is also a NCAA qualifier for the past two seasons with his All-American bid coming as a sophomore. As a junior, Flickinger posted a fantastic 30-8 record and secured a pair of in-season titles capturing the Ursinus Fall Brawl and the Spartan Invitational where he was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. For each of the past three seasons the senior co-captain weighed-in at 125 pounds but will move up a weight class for his senior year. Flickinger’s additional weight combined with his athleticism and extensive experience could equal his third Metro title, an NCAA appearance and possibly another trip to the All-American stand.

“He has a great opportunity this season,” Kessler said of Flickinger’s senior year outlook. “He has put the work in over the off season and has had good success during his time here at York. He not only wants to do big things this year but he expects to do them, to be there at the end.”

Fellow captain John Niedrich embarks on his senior campaign after a breakout season as a junior. Niedrich burst on the scene by winning each of his first 16 matches en route to a 27-7 season mark. He won he King’s College Monarch Tournament, the Fall Brawl, and the Spartan Invitational before taking second at the Metro championships. Niedrich’s work on the mat was equaled only by his work in the classroom as he was selected as an NWCA Scholar All-American, the 27th time a Spartan wrestler has received the honor. A NCAA qualifier last season, Niedrich will bump up to 165 pounds this year looking for his first Metro title and another trip to the NCAAs.

“Niedrich really came on strong as a junior,” Kessler said. “He became one of the top wrestlers in not only in the conference but also the region. After the season he put together last year he knows that this one could be special.”

A pair of returners placed fourth at the 2008 Metro championships in 184 pound Chris Elliott and 197 pound Hank Conklin. Elliott, a junior this season, recorded an 8-9 mark but came on strong at the end of the year to take fourth place at the league championships. Conklin gained solid experience as a sophomore wrestling 36 times to post a 20-16 record. The 197-pounder captured the title at the Ursinus Fall Brawl, grabbed second at the Spartan Invitational and took fourth at the Monarch Tournament. Conklin will wrestle at 184 pounds this season, adding incredible depth to this weight class. Sophomore John Page and freshman Steve Flannery provide more depth to the 184 class. Page gained quality experience as a 174 pound freshman while Flannery brings a youthful enthusiasm and quality talent to this weight.

“With Elliott and Conklin in this weight we could be very strong at 184,” Kessler said. “They each have great experience and tallied quality wins as sophomores. Page has the ability to wrestle well and Flannery will improve throughout the year as he learns how to wrestle at the college level.”

Senior Sean Hightman looks to lead the 125-pound class after a 12-16 junior campaign at 133 pounds. Dropping down a weight class this season, the trimmer Hightman has the opportunity to challenge for his first Metro title. Fellow senior Gary Heckler will push Hightman, as will sophomore Jerrid Hartman, adding quality depth to this weight class. Hartman gained quality experience during his freshman season, compiling a solid 14-11 mark. Sophomore Lamone Wilson and freshmen Matt McCollum and Aaron Repman will look to gain experience this season and become respective forces in the future.

“There is plenty of experience and talent in our group of 125 pounders,” Kessler said. “Hightman has the chance to put it all together this season, while Heckler, Hartman, and our other wrestlers at this weight are each of good quality. I am excited to see how well this group will do throughout the year.”

Headlined by Flickinger, the 133 pound class has the potential to be a strong weight for the Spartans. Aside from the senior All-American, senior Matt Volpe also increases a weight class jumping up from 125 last season. Freshman Tyler Scarinzi has the ability and credentials to see significant mat time right away. Junior Josh Trainor and several freshman wrestlers in Aaron Formanek, Eric Bulger, Rob Gelet, and Shaun Wagner could become key cogs in future Spartan lineup.

“Obviously with Flickinger at this weight we could be very strong,” Kessler said. “There is a great mixture of talent, experience, and youth that could make for some excellent results for us.”

The 141-pound class will feature a slew of young wrestlers. Four rookies lead the class as Taylor Ulm, Ronnie Sinclair, Bryan Deuber, and Devon Cunningham will battle to see quality mat time in just their first season.  Ulm has won the wrestle-offs and will start the season for the Spartans. Junior Steve Adelson will look to help this young group mature into the college ranks.
“The wrestlers at 141 will have to grow up pretty quick,” Kessler said. “But at the same time, there is significant talent and ability at this weight. If they can get acclimated early it could be a very positive year for them.”

Sophomores Albert Gleichauf and Eric Rush lead the 149- and 157-pound classes respectively. Gleichuaf posted a 5-9 mark last season as a freshman wrestling at 157. Dropping down to 149 this season, Gleichauf should have a successful campaign. Dylan Giandalia, a freshman from nearby Wrightsville, will back-up Gleichauf and seek to push the sophomore for mat time. Rush steps into the lead role in the 157-pound class after going 15-12 at 149 last year. Freshmen Jason Ecklof and Aaron Samia are both quality wrestlers who will provide this weight class with terrific depth while gaining experience at the college level.

“Gleichauf and Rush are solid wrestlers and each has the ability to do big things on the mat in just their second season,” Kessler said. “The student-athletes in reserve at these weight classes will get to learn a great deal this season while each has the ability to post wins for us.”

As with Flickinger at 133, Niedrich headlines the 165 class and will look for a big senior campaign. A pair of rookies in Matt Heisey and Paul Richards will be Niedrich’s main back-ups while sophomore Jared Botchie will seek to challenge for mat time.

“With Niedrich leading this class, we should be very strong here,” Kessler said. “Heisey and Richards will have an opportunity to see the mat and get experience and Botchie will challenge as well. I am very excited about this weight.”

At 174, Brian Thomason owns the starter spot with Alex Martocello and Norman Pfeiffer falling in behind. Thomason, a sophomore transfer from Division I Clarion, could do big things in his first season in the green and white while Martocello is a highly touted freshman from Miller Place, N.Y. Pfeiffer posted a 3-6 record as a 165-pound freshman and will be more comfortable this season as a sophomore.

“Thomason is definitely a quality wrestler,” Kessler said. “Martocello’s ability can really help us now and in the future while Pfeiffer can do good things as well.”

The two heaviest weight classes sport youth throughout the depth chart with a freshman and sophomore holding down the top spot in each class. Freshman George Saliba has grabbed the 197-pound position while fellow rookies Kyle Minoque and James Laughlin will see much time and success on the mats.  Junior Tom Fitzpatrick will help teach the youngsters about the rigors of college wrestling while he and sophomore Glenn Anderson add even more strength to the depth chart. 

Sophomore Shane Cooley opens the season as York’s top 285-pounder while four freshmen provide significant depth. Cooley posted a strong freshman campaign going 14-9 as the back up to Metro Conference champion Luke Panizzi. With Panizzi since graduated Cooley assumes the reigns of the heavyweight class and will draw on the experience and knowledge he gained as Panizzi’s understudy last season. Joe Erb and Kossi Fiavi are both outstanding freshman who will push Cooley for mat time while Andrew Senft and Michael King will gain experience and get comfortable at the collegiate level in their first seasons.

“Sure our 197 and 285 pound wrestlers are young but that can also be an asset,” Kessler said. “They may not have as much experience but that also means that they do not have any preconceived notions. They can just go out there and wrestle. We could take some bumps early but by the end of the year I believe we could be right there with these weight classes.”

As is usual for the Spartan wrestling program, the 2008-2009 schedule is littered with quality competition.  Six opponents, Wisconsin LaCrosse, Cortland, the College of New Jersey, Wilkes, Lycoming, and Rhode Island, are each ranked in the preseason top-30 according to the NWCA Brute-Adidas poll.  York also squares-off against two Division II opponents, Kutztown and preseason #20 Shippensburg, while the Spartans also have a date with Division I Millersville.

“We want to be the best so we wrestle the best,” Kessler said. “We want to get our wrestlers great experience against big-time teams, against big-time wrestlers. Our schedule allows us to do just that. I am excited about what this season could hold.”

That schedule opened up on Wednesday, November 5, with a 31-18 victory over McDaniel. The Spartans will next travel to Kings College this Saturday for the annual Monarch Tournament.

Kyle Flickinger photo courtesy of Eric Linsley