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 couldnt run
through the doors of Lake-Lehmans 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 thats
tougher than any other sport. The work-for-reward balance is often
skewed towards disappointment, and Kerbaughs scaled had bottomed
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?
Theres no overriding reason why he came
back. His coaches didnt like it, and his teammates, he said,
dont let you quit. Plus, the sport offers a few perks.
I love putting a hurting on somebody,
Its just that he didnt 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
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 thats the point. He didnt
need the reward, the personal gain.
Finishing the season without a victory wouldnt
have been the ideal use of his time, but it wouldnt have been
the worst. In wrestling, it seems, winning is the goal but not the
What that is, he really couldnt 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.
Mitkowski family could be
in line for more gold
Younger brothers of PIAA champs look to repeat their siblings
feats at states.
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 Areas Jason Mitkowski
won a gold medal at the Class 2A tournament. And last year, Wyoming
Valley Wests Trevin Cowman claimed the stake at the Class 3A
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
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.
Its almost like Im at a family
reunion here, said Ebert. But I would take a room full
of these guys any day because they dont 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
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.
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
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
Mountains of Youth
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
"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
Key Losses: Nate Jimmerson (112)
Last Year: 5-16
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.
"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