Juniata Valley wrestling is back to work and preparing for the upcoming season with a new head coach and five returning letter winners.
Jeff Hensor takes over the team in place of Trevor Kern. In four years Kern was 11-42.
The Hornets went 0-14 last season. Hensor inherits another small team with some experience.
Hensor coached junior high back in the mid 1990s and also ran the elementary program for five years. He has also been an official the last five years.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to work with some new athletes. We have some football guys. I wanted to get to know more of the student body and get back into wrestling,” commented Hensor. “We want to keep things rolling in a positive fashion and get better every day.”
Jimmy Rivello is the assistant with Sean McCrum the junior high head coach and John Morton helping him.
“I’d like to see us be a different wrestler at the end then they are the beginning of season. I want to focus on competing and learning how to compete. We have a lot of young wrestlers. The junior high has decent numbers so going forward we’re in a good position to pick up where the old staff left off,” noted Hensor.
Only one competitor graduated from last year, but the team is missing seven others who did not come back out. The Hornets have a little bit of experience but only one senior, four juniors, and eight sophomores. Practice has also been affected by extended football season with some grapplers unavailable.
The five lettermen are senior Lewis Porter (132/138); juniors Emmitt Hardin (220), Brent Beaver (195/220), and Isaac Watson (160/170); and sophomore Collin Sparr (113).
Also on the team is junior Seth Everhart (220/285), and sophomores TJ Wilson (195), Clay Hamman (145/152), Ethan Kern (126/132), Jakob Simmet (152/160), Tony Reed (138/145), Dalton Dick (220/285), and Tony Porter (126/132).
“We’ll be thin at some weights and double dipping at some others. We’ll give up a few weight classes each meet,” explained Hensor. “We’ll focus on earning dual points and trying to win individually. We’ll be looking at how competitive we are each night.”
Sparr enjoyed a very good freshmen season a year ago. He finished with a 15-6 record at 106 pounds, and was the only Hornet to turn in an above .500 record.
Sparr placed 10th overall on the final area wrestling list with a .714 winning percentage. Eight of his wins were by fall.
Sparr also had a good run at the Everett Bloody Run Duals, dropping his first bout but then picking up three wins. At Valley’s Garrett Scott Invitational he went 2-0.
Sparr was also one of three wrestlers back from a year ago that competed at the District Six meet. Sparr lost his first match, pinned Southern Huntingdon’s Kolton Whitsel in 2:11, before another loss ended his season.
“Collin is working hard and should be better than he was from a technique standpoint. I think he can make some noise there,” said Hensor.
Hardin went 7-17 last season, wrestling at higher weights early and then ending up at 170 for districts. At the district meet he lost his first match, beat Mount Union’s Dawson Low 6-2, and then lost again to be eliminated. He was 2-2 at the Garrett Scott Invitational and 3-1 at Bloody Run.
Beaver was 4-15 a year ago los a pair of matches at districts at 195. Three of his wins were by fall.
Porter and Watson each wrestled shortened seasons. Porter was 4-8 at 126 and Watson was 3-7 at 152. Porter was 3-1 at Bloody Run.
“The upper weights at 195 and up we have some experience there and guys who have had some success. They have a resume to make them competitive,” said Hensor.
“We’ll have some wrestle offs for the first tournament at Conemugh Township. In the 126-138 category. I like Tony Porter in the middle, Clay Hamman has been a pleasant surprise. For a first year wrestler he has a lot of attributes.”
The Hornets start the season at the Conemaugh Township Tournament Dec. 8. The home opener is Dec. 11 against Tussey Mountain. The Bloody Run Duals are Jan. 5 and the Garrett Scott Invitational is scheduled for Feb. 9.