Nanticoke Area wrestler enjoys thrill of victory

Bursting into the hallway with flushed cheeks, Nick Kerbaugh yelled into a phone that he had won. He couldn’t run through the doors of Lake-Lehman’s gym fast enough, a 152-pound wrestler turned firecracker.
Sure, what set him off was triumph in the first round of consolations at AA districts, on Friday.
But in the same bracket that saw one wrestler get his 100th career victory, this Nanticoke Area 10th-grader burst into the hallway to celebrate his first.
Numerous wrestlers came into districts with fewer than five wins on the season, but Kerbaugh was the only one to go 0-for-all. Zero wins, 18 losses.
For months, he never had an opponent make a bad decision or tire out. He never scored a team point, never got his arm raised by an official. Even in a wrestling class with Swiss cheese lineups, Kerbaugh never got a forfeit.
Oh, he did say he was going to get a win that way recently. But he weighed in a few tenths over.
Wrestlers have quit for less than this — too much work and dedication, not enough fun, a season that’s tougher than any other sport. The work-for-reward balance is often skewed towards disappointment, and Kerbaugh’s scaled had bottomed out completely.
For a week, he quit.
All the aggravation, the weight checks, the discipline, the in-match blood, the post-match tears. He only intended to use it to keep in shape for football, which he liked better, anyway. Who needs it?
Apparently, Kerbaugh.
There’s no overriding reason why he came back. His coaches didn’t like it, and his teammates, he said, don’t let you quit. Plus, the sport offers a few perks.
“I love putting a hurting on somebody,” he said.
It’s just that he didn’t do a whole lot of that this season.
On Friday, Kerbaugh took the mat against Dallas’ Matt Hilstolsky and somehow landed on top, took advantage, and got the fall.
In only 2:53, he made up for an eternally long season. He put a hurting on somebody.
Before he even won, he said he started to like wrestling better for the challenge, and intends to go to a couple camps over the summer. And maybe that’s the point. He didn’t need the reward, the personal gain.
Finishing the season without a victory wouldn’t have been the ideal use of his time, but it wouldn’t have been the worst. In wrestling, it seems, winning is the goal but not the point.
What that is, he really couldn’t define. But after finally getting rid of the goose egg at districts, Kerbaugh rushed into the hallway and had no trouble finding the right words.
“I won!”

Mitkowski family could be in line for more gold
Younger brothers of PIAA champs look to repeat their siblings’ feats at states.
By drosengrant@timesleader.com

For all the outstanding wrestling families that have competed in the Wyoming Valley Conference, there has never been more than one state championship among brothers.
Now, there appears to be more than one opportunity for that to happen.
In 2003, Nanticoke Area’s Jason Mitkowski won a gold medal at the Class 2A tournament. And last year, Wyoming Valley West’s Trevin Cowman claimed the stake at the Class 3A tournament.
Their siblings, who are trying to follow in their brothers’ footsteps by doing the same, have a few years to bring home state gold, or possibly even win more than one state title.
Jeremy Mitkowski, a sophomore at Nanticoke, wrestled in seventh grade but took two years off before returning to the mat this season. He started out sluggish this season and lost his first eight matches, but now he is on a tear. He has won eight out of his last 10 bouts and owns a 16-12 record.
Jason Mitkowski wrestled in junior high, then left the sport before returning for his senior year and went on to win the most unlikely of state titles.
“I started wrestling because I saw (Jason) doing it and I wanted to be like him,” Jeremy said.
Keeping it relative
Nanticoke coach Joe Ebert is the youngest of three brothers who were successful wrestlers. Joe was a district and regional champ while wrestling for GAR in 1991. His oldest brother Dave was district runner-up for Bishop Hoban in 1975, while Chris was also district runner-up while grappling for GAR in 1979.
He must have brought that relativity with him when he was appointed Trojans coach last season.
He got Jeremy Mitkowski to wrestle again and he brought along his cousin Aaron, who is a junior and has a record of 13-9 in his first year. Aaron, who has won seven of his last eight matches, has even got his brother Ben, an eighth-grader, involved in the sport.
“It’s almost like I’m at a family reunion here,” said Ebert. “But I would take a room full of these guys any day because they don’t care who they wrestle and go out, give it their all and are like animals and it shows.”

Nanticoke Area 39
Hanover Area 30
At Hanover Area, John Parsons, Aaron Mitkowski and Aaron Mulhern each won by fall
as Nanticoke edged Hanover.

Sizing Up the WVC Wrestling Season
Division II

A Step Down, But Not Out
The Mountaineers set themselves apart last season, going undefeated in the division and placing second at districts. He was in good shape with district runner-ups PJ Precone (103), Mitch Artsma (125), and Joe Hayes (140) coming back.
Then December 2006 happened, and the Mountaineers' shape got significantly worse, losing three players in a week's time, including senior captain Kyle Hazleton to a shattered ankle.
"They were huge assets to our team to repeat," coach Dan Natitus said. "It put a little damper on the season. We gotta deal with the team we have."
Which still qualifies as enough to contend for the conference title, especially with district third-place Craig Nilsson (215) returning as well. Still, the task got a lot harder.

Wyoming Area
After finishing 11th at last year's AAA districts, the Warriors moved down to AA for 2007. Coach John Ratajczak said he feels like they can compete better in that class, and even though it won't have an implication on WVC alignment (Wyoming Area was still in Division II last year, when it finished third) - it might have residual effects.
The Warriors have senior Zach Stash (189) back, and a host of juniors led by heavyweight Ted Lasher, Brent Platukas (135), and Matt Manganello (119). They could all do well in districts, and move on to regional or even state competition.

Setting an example
Half a dozen seniors set the tone for last year's division runner-up, three of whom went deep into the postseason. Pete Hooker (125) won a district title, Rashaan Evans (135) took fourth, and Brandon Owens (160) was second at districts and fourth at regionals.
So even though some Grenadiers were out of wrestling shape from a long and successful football season, they at least have the experience to pull everything together for a run at the conference title. Sophomore Morgan Luton (119), who finished fifth at districts last year, can only improve.

Hanover Area
The Hawkeyes don't have a corps of senior leadership, but junior Nick Kuhl (130) can set enough of an example. He's one of many Hanover juniors, but the only wrestler to return as a district champion. Coach Mike Ropietski said he charged Kuhl with showing the relatively young Hawkeye team "they way things are done," and it's responded with a sponge-like approach to wrestling.
After enduring a battering stretch of matches against Division I opponents, Ropietski hopes to get his kids some mat time for later in the season, when they'll have firmer fundamentals. But with Kuhl as an example, that time might come sooner than expected.

Like a lot of Division II teams, the Mohawks don't get a ton of wrestlers and have general youth. Unlike those teams, they also have a trio of seniors - Adam Iseman (160) took second in districts last year, Joe Baronoski (152) took fourth, and Steve Bolton (215) gives Meyers a solid option at heavier weights. Coach Ron Swingle likes the lead they take on the mat and as future adults, since they've all been accepted to D-I colleges.
"Ultimate, the final proof is what their life is like 15 years from now," Swingle said.
Back in the wrestling realm, junior Khalil Lewis (135) returns as a third-place district finisher, and should help provide some veteran success to balance out the seven ninth-graders Swingle brought up.

In the Tigers' case it's not a group of seniors necessarily paving the way. It's third-year coach Andy Doster, who's from the wrestling-intense Lehigh Valley. He scheduled tough teams like Crestwood and WVW on purpose to get his younger wrestlers hard experience.
They were a little awestruck at the beginning of the season, and is trying to teach them the importance of mental preparation.
"The easy part's the coaching and practicing," Doster said. "To get 14 kids functioning at the same intensity at the same time, that's the trick."
They do have experience in seniors Kevin Kasmierski (135), Chris Welch (145), and Nathan Pohlman (215). Junior Jason Kalmanowicz (125) finished fourth at AAA districts last year, and junior Dustin Faux (160) finished fifth.

Mountains of Youth
Nanticoke Area
There's no indication the Trojans will look past the current season for ones to come. Not with junior Brandon Jimmerson (119), who took third at last year's districts, or senior heavyweight John Parsons returning. But the strength of second-year coach Joe Ebert's team is in its sophomore class.
Brandon Novakoski (135), Aaron Mulhern (140), and Joe Went (152) are a few of the wrestlers in it, and Ebert said all of them have good workroom habits.
"Usually by this time I would have lost it," Ebert said. "But they're working very, very hard."
Also in that group is Jeremy Mitkowski (189), who benefits from good fraternal bloodlines. His brother, Jason, won Nanticoke's only state championship in 2003.

Trojan Wrestling Preview

Coach: Joe Ebert, 2nd year
Last Year: 5-16

Key Losses: Nate Jimmerson (112)

Probable lineup:
103: open; 12: open; 119: Ryan Garvey, Jr.;125: Brandon Jimmerson, Jr.; 130: Andrew Mulhurn, So.; 135: Brandon Novakowsi, So.; 140: Joe Wentz, So.; 145: Andrew Wamfler, Sr.; 152: Bobby Bond, Jr.; 160: Matt Guzinski, Sr.;171: Dan Paveletz, Jr.;189: Jeremy Mitkowski, So.; 215: John Parsons, Sr.; 285: Aaron Mitkowski, Sr.
Jeremy Mitkowski is the younger brother of former state champion, Jason. Ebert said that Jeremy has skills that appear better than his sibling. Mitkowski is just an example of the talent on this team. Their depth is a little low and will have trouble competing with the better teams in the conference, but the program is headed in the right direction.
Coach's Comments:
"If I can keep these guys together and working, they are going to be tough because they are working hard and have a lot of potential. Right now the coaching staff is working together with our Athletic Director and we are all on the same page and its going to help bring the program back."