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FROM THE PRESS BOX: A GLANCE INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL AT THE 2021-22 WRESTLING SEASON (2021-08-06)

Athens junior Gavin Bradley was the highlight of the 2020-21 wrestling season, with an impressive run to a silver medal at the PIAA, Class AA wrestling championships.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of New York State short-sighted decision to cancel the winter sports state championships was the fact Tioga did not get the opportunity to get back to the state duals tournament, or defend their team title at the state wrestling championships.

The good news is Bradley, and several of his teammates who had strong seasons, and all of Tioga’s horses are back for the 2021-22 season.

So what does next season have in store for us? Let’s take a glance into the crystal ball and see:

Athens Wildcats:
Bradley (40-2) returns for his senior season, and he’ll have plenty of help.

District qualifiers senior Kaden Setzer (26-9), junior Chris Bathgate (25-8), senior Karter Rude (24-9), sophomore Mason Vanderpool (14-6), and junior Jake Courtney (16-11) all return, as will sophomore Josh Courtney (12-7), senior Lucas Forbes (12-18), and sophomore Josh Nittinger (15-16).

The Wildcats could get some help from the junior team as well, with Caleb Nason the top candidate to contribute immediately, but he'll have to battle NIttinger to get in the line-up.

Don’t be surprised if Bathgate, Vanderpool, and Jake Courtney take big steps forward in 2021-22.

Prediction: Athens loses just two seniors, and should challenge Canton for an NTL duals title. … Individually, Bradley will look to join Brian Courtney as the only four-time PIAA medalists in program history, and several of his teammate are poised to make a deep run into the postseason, with Setzer possibly making a run to States.

Sayre Redskins: The Redskins were once again hit hard by injuries and academic ineligibility, as well as the Covid malaise, which caused a few wrestlers to not come out, in 2020-21.

Even if everyone comes out in 2021-22, numbers will be a little slim. There isn’t much help coming from the junior high this year either — just one wrestler, but a large group of 8th-graders could fill out the line-up in 2022-23.

This winter, junior Glen Romberger (6-13) and sophomores Kendrick Ross (3-2) and Kaden Bennett (2-6) will likely return, along with a couple of youngsters who saw limited action this year

If seniors Jake Bennett, who was 25-8 in 2019-20, Nik Polzella (16-13 in 2019-20), and Cam McCutcheon (13-15 in 2019-20) return, the Redskins should be improved.

Prediction: There won’t be any type of team success with such low numbers, but the Redskins could see some individual success.

Tioga Tigers:
The Tigers have made three consecutive trips to the New York State Duals semifinals, and have won back-to-back team titles at the New York State Division 2 Championships. With five state qualifiers, including four place-winners, returning from 2019-20, odds are good Tioga will be in position to extend both those streaks.

Tioga returns state champ sophomore Gianni Silvestri (12-0 in 2021), and sophomore Caden Bellis (12-0), who was fourth at States, and seniors Emmett Wood (8-0), and Mason Welch (7-0), who finished seventh and eighth, respectively, at States, along with state qualifier Donovan Smith (9-0).

Also back are sophomores Tyler Roe (15-0), Levi Bellis (12-0), Trent Browne, Deakon Bailey, and Zac Kotsubka, senior Josh Snell and Justin Hopkins, and junior John Woodcock.

And, Tioga also will benefit from a pair of transfers as former SVEC standouts sophomore Osumane Duncanson, who placed third at the Section IV, Division 2 championships in 2019, and 8th-grader Jayden Duncanson have moved into the school district.

The Tigers could also get some help in the upper weights from its junior high team.

Prediction: Tioga is absolutely loaded, and they will be deep. … Coach Kris Harrington is really beefing up his schedule — both duals and tournaments, and has his sights set on the postseason. This could be the year, Tioga wins its State Duals title, and tops its school record of six wrestlers at the state championships.

Waverly Wolverines:
Numbers shouldn’t be a concern for the Wolverines in 2021-22, but they will be a very young team.

Juniors Connor Stotler (16-3), Ty Beeman (10-4), Gage Tedesco (7-5), Anthony Speer (8-4), and Landon McCarty (6-6) will return, as will senior Andrew Kimble (7-9), and a few younger wrestlers.

The Wolverines will also feature SVEC transfer Devin Beach, who took third at the Section IV, Division 2 Championships in 2019.

Freshman Kam Hills, who was unbeaten as a 7th-grader on the junior high team, should make an immediate impact for the Wolverines at 285 pounds. They also have a very strong 7th-grade class, but it’s too early to tell if any of them will be varsity ready in 2021-22.

Prediction: With Beeman, Tedesco, Beach and Hills, the Wolverines will be formidable in the upper weights. I expect Stotler and McCarty to have big seasons, so the question will be how Waverly fills out the rest of its line-up. … I think the Wolverines will be much-improved in duals and tournament play, and I expect their four big boys — after a season in the room together — to make some noise in the postseason.

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