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Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — After a three-week hiatus, Athens returned to the wrestling room Monday, and longtime coach Shawn Bradley was pleasantly surprised to see all 15 wrestlers back on the practice mats.

“We had a really good first week of practice,” he said. “We’re really young, and we lost some kids — some kids didn’t want to come out, and some didn’t wrestle because of Covid.

“I was really, really surprised when we got here Monday, and there were 15 kids here,” noted Bradley. “I thought we’d lose four or five because of the situation, but they all came back.

“We’ll keep moving forward … it’s a really truncated season — just five weeks long, but we’re still hoping to get 30 matches in,” added Bradley. “Hopefully, we improve and by the end of those five weeks, we’re where we want to be.”

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown last spring cost some of his wrestlers mat time, but many “found ways to work.

“Last year, Gavin (Bradley) got in 80 matches (during the offseason) — that’s like wrestling two more seasons,” said Bradley. “That didn’t happen this year, but that’s not to say we didn’t find ways to get work in

“We had four core guys who found a way to work, and I think you’ll see the results from those four kids.

“Since we’ve been able to wrestle, we were able to get some tournaments in,” noted Bradley. “We wrestled in the Lock Haven Tournament, which they moved to Williamsport, and we wrestled at the Journeyman, so some of our guys got five to 10 matches in there against top-level competition.

“We didn’t get our dual matches in, which eliminated some of our fund-raisers,” he added. “Just like everyone else though, we’re improvising and trying to get through everything. We’re trying to do what’s best for the kids and get them some competition.”

The Wildcats open the 2021 season Tuesday at Canton, and will also wrestle Saturday at the Berwick Duals. The 2021 schedule also includes their own Jarvis Tournament.

“The Jarvis Tournament is an individual pool tournament, so the kids will get five matches, which is great,” said Bradley.

“Luckily, the PIAA has bent the rules a little bit,” he noted. “You’re only allowed so many pooled events per year, but now (the PIAA) doesn’t want a lot of teams getting together, so they’ll allow us more pooled events. It allows us to get the matches done quicker.

“If we get all our duals, duals tournaments, and pooled events in, we should get 30 matches in by Sectionals,” added Bradley.

The postseason will also be different this season with an added round — the “Super Regional” — between Regionals and States. Only eight wrestlers will advance to the PIAA Championships this season, with the tournament shifting from a three-day event to just one.

“These are all going to be one-day tournaments, and that could be a tough thing because if you have a bad day, your postseason could be over,” said Bradley.

“It’s going to be a little different,” noted Bradley. “Kids are going to have to scale themselves a little bit different, so they can wrestle those one-day events and be at peak performance.”

Bradley also notes only three wrestlers from the Northeast Regional will advance to the Super Regional, instead of the four that advanced to States last year.

“Well, there are going to be four State medalists there at Gavin’s weight,” he said. “Those are things you’re dealing with when you do it this way. Kids are going to have to be on.”


IN PHOTO 1: Athens’ Gavin Bradley and Jake Courtney. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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