YORK, PA – The York College wrestling squad embarks on a new era in 2013-14. Hall of Fame coach Tom Kessler stepped away from the program at the end of last season. Kessler's long-time assistant and two-time Spartan national champion Duane Bastress stepped into the head position and the Spartans haven't missed a beat heading into the season.
Bastress, who sat next to Kessler for seven years after the conclusion of his outstanding collegiate career, brings a tremendous fire and enthusiasm for the program and is thrilled to be York's head coach.
"It was a privilege to get the opportunity to learn under Coach Kessler," says Bastress. "I feel very prepared to take over the program and I am excited to build on the tremendous tradition which Coach built over the last 20 years."
Bastress enters his first season with high hopes. Those hopes are build on a solid group of upperclassmen supplemented by a dynamic group of newcomers, many of who will battle for extensive mat time in their first year in the Green and White.
"If we have some of our young guys step up and perform to their capabilities, we have the chance to have a great year," says Bastress. "We will be young but we will also have a high level of talent."
Bastress will look his lone captain, junior Joey Giaccio (Cranford, N.J./Cranford), for leadership for this young team.
"Joey is a very good leader," says Bastress. "I am confident he will provide our squad with solid and effective leadership."
The Spartans have different levels of depth in each of their 10 weight classes. Some classes go four or five deep while some others aren't quite as deep.
"Our depth in some classes is really impressive while some others we will need guys to stay healthy because the depth isn't as great," says Bastress.
At 125-pounds, Bastress will turn to freshman Tom Gattinella (Sewell, N.J./Saint Augustine Prep) to hold down the weight class. Gattinella was a three-time New Jersey state qualifier as he went 127-24 during his high school career at Saint Augustine Prep.
"Tom is young and talented. He will have the chance to establish himself as a strong collegiate wrestler," says Bastress.
The 133-pound class features the deepest class on the Spartan roster. Freshman Ryan Flynn (Newtown Square, Pa./Marple Newtown) will battle sophomores Kenny Arentz (Reading, Pa./Governor Mifflin) and Trevor Baez-Hernandez (Bendersville, Pa./Biglerville) for the starting position. Flynn was a two-time Pennsylvania state qualifier at Marple Newtown as he won 129 matches in his high school career. Arentz had a good freshman year for the Spartans last year as he won 17 matches including a second place finish at the Monarch Classic last November. Baez-Hernandez won 11 matches as a freshman and has stepped up to be in the mix for a starting spot.
"There is a great deal of competition at 133," says Bastress. "The competition is great for all the guys involved and will only serve to make each of these guys better."
Bastress has his two returning national qualifiers at 141-pounds as Chuck Glatz (Medford, N.J./Shawnee) and Giaccio start the season together. Giaccio was the Mid-East Region champ last year as he went 20-4 at 133-pounds. He won one match at the national championship tournament and is primed to head back to the tournament as a junior. Glatz finished third in the Mid-East Region last winter as he went 21-12 to earn a berth in the NCAA tournament.
"It's unusual to have two returning national qualifiers at the same weight class but the plan will be to have one of the two drop down to 133," says Bastress. "They are both talented wrestlers who have the opportunity to get back to the championships and earn All-American honors."
The 149-pound class is an area of experience for the Green and White. Junior Drew Spector (West Deptford, N.J./West Deptford) moves down a weight class after earning 14 wins as a sophomore at 157. He is joined by Victor Signorelli (Oak Ridge, N.J./Twin Valley) as Signorelli went 13-6 in 2012-13 including a first-place finish at the Monarch Invitational last November.
"Drew is down from 157 and looks very comfortable at 149," says Bastress. "He has worked very hard in the off-season and looks ready to have a big year. Victor is also a solid wrestler who will push Drew in the room."
Sophomore Adam Kritzer (Herndon, Pa./Line Mountain) will be York's main wrestler at 156 pounds. Kritzer earned 17 wins as a freshman and a fourth place finish at the Monarch Invitational.
"Adam has worked hard in the off season," said Bastress. "He wanted to improve on a solid freshman year and he is set to do just that."
T.J. Demetrio (Pottstown, Pa./Pottsgrove) is set to be York's 165-pounder as he posted 18 wins as a sophomore. He finished second at the New Standard Invitational and sixth at the Monarch Invitational. Demetrio will be backed up by sophomore Steven Johns (Manahawkin, N.J. / Southern Regional) and freshman Austin Barley (York, Pa./Spring Grove), a pair of talented young wrestlers.
"T.J. worked really hard in the off season and has made himself into a strong 165 pounder," says Bastress. "I think he will have the chance to be a key part of our lineup and give himself an opportunity to make noise at the national tournament."
The 174-pound weight class features a pair of talented freshman in Tyler Rhoads (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin East) and Mitchell Ramsey (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg). Ramsey was a 2013 Pennsylvania State qualifier as he posted a 113-31 career record at Mechanicsburg High School. Rhoades wrestled for former Spartan standout Mike Bookwalter at Central Dauphin East High School.
"One seventy-four has been a weight class where we had to mix and match last year," said Bastress. "We focused on that class in recruiting and brought in a pair of guys who we feel can do a good job. I think Tyler and Mitchell both have a chance to be very good wrestlers for us."
The Spartans' top freshman, Nicholas Zak (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Liberty), resides at 184 pounds where he will be expected to be York's starter. Zak was a three-time New Jersey state qualifier and posted a career record of 127-21 at Jackson Liberty High School. He placed sixth at the 2013 Senior Nationals.
"Nick is a kid who has the chance to be a great wrestler for us," says Bastress. "He is driven to be great and his work ethic is fantastic. I am looking forward to getting to see him on the mat."
The Spartans will count on the tandem of sophomore Zach Coleman (Belcamp, Md./Harford Technical) and freshman Troy Uhrin (Archibald, Pa./Valley View) at 197 pounds. Coleman drops down a weight class after going 7-7 at heavyweight last winter. Uhrin is a talented freshman that could push Coleman for mat time.
"Zach really dedicated himself in the off season and looks very comfortable at 197. Troy is a kid who we like and think will have a chance to get on the mat this winter," said Bastress. "I think we are in good shape at 197."
Heavyweight is an area where the Spartans return one of their top wrestlers in sophomore Mike Spencer (Pompton Plains, N.J./Pequannock Township). Spencer went 20-11 as a freshman including winning the Monarch Invitational in his first collegiate tournament. Sophomore Tom Boylan (Freehold, N.J./Freehold) will back Spencer up at heavyweight.
"Mike committed himself this offseason. He has worked on improving his strength, conditioning and his wrestling technique. Mike has the ability to be a national qualifier could have a chance to make some noise in the tournament."
Bastress knows his squad is young but the talent in the room has him excited.
"I like our youth. I like our talent. We have a strong group of wrestlers throughout the ten weight classes. These guys are determined to have a great season."
Bastress is excited to get his team on the mat.
"There is nothing like the excitement of a new season. I am looking forward to being the leader of this group of wrestlers."
The Spartans will open the campaign on Tuesday, November 12 when they travel to Lycoming College to face the Warriors. York opens their home campaign on Tuesday, November 26 against Elizabethtown.