The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Sports

February 10, 2014

MAT NOTEBOOK: Beth-Catholic on incredible run; McMath builds Fla. program

OPINION — IN MY MANY YEARS of covering high school wrestling, I have seen many powerhouse programs rise and fall.

Reynolds is one of the state’s most consistant programs and the success at the state level year after year has demonstrated that. And no offense to the Raiders faithful, but I don’t know if there have been some of Reynolds’ better teams that could beat the Bethlehem Catholic teams of the past few years.

BeCa has won the last four PIAA Class AA Dual Meet Championships during that span and as young as they are this year, there could be more titles in the future.

Last year the Golden Hawks qualified 12 wrestlers for the individual state tourney although four were seniors, including state champ Damien Cruz. It will be interesting to see how many qualify this year as they go for their third straight tournament title there.

ä Former Sharon High mat star Eric Mausser has built a strong program and Franklin Regional and the team won the PIAA Class AAA Dual Meet Championship Saturday with an easy finals victory over fellow WPIAL team Latrobe.

The team placed third at the duals last year and got an added boost this season when a couple of wrestlers transferred from the Saegertown program — including AA state champ Devin Brown.

It would have been fun to see BeCa wrestle Franklin Regional as part of the dual meet tournament.

ä Speaking of wrestling powerhouses, former Sharpsville High star Tom McMath has built one at Jensen Beach (Fla.) High School.

McMath, who after Sharpsville went on to an outstanding career at West Virginia University, is now in his 8th season at Jensen Beach in Martin County, Fla. While Florida has separate high schools, they have county school districts.

My brother Paul, who has been matside shooting photos for The Herald for the last several years at Pennsylvania postseason tournaments, caught up with McMath during the Florida regional championships held at Jensen Beach H.S., where McMath doubles as the tournament director.

According to Paul:

ä The school newly opened in 2004 and he came in 2006 as a teacher and coach.

ä When the program started there were only a few wrestlers in the room, but he now has more than 30. Some students he talked to when he first started didn’t know they had wrestling.

ä He instituted and coaches the Barricuda Wrestling Club during the off-season.

ä He feels this year is his best team since many of them came up through the system and wrestle during the off season. At the regionals, he had four champions and qualified 10 of his matmen for the state tournament this coming weekend.

ä He has 11 District champions and 4 state champions to date. He has returning state champion Chris Favoroso wrestling at 195.

ä He says, while Florida wrestling has been behind other states where wrestling has been around for awhile, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, it is getting much better.  He feels the top 2 or 3 wrestlers in Florida could do well in other states. He is hoping to take a couple of his wrestlers to the National High School Tourney

One of the problems is that the sport hasn’t caught on as much with the media in Florida, which focuses more on college and pro sports. One of the drawbacks for the sport is that there isn’t one major Florida college that offers wrestling.

ä Tom is engaged. He and Kimberly will be married in April. They met in Florida, although she is originally from the Philadelphia area. She is big wrestling fan and understands the time commitment it takes to coach.

ä His good friend and former Blue Devils football teammate John Napotnik comes down to visit every year during the tournaments. McMath and Napotnik were two of the several key players on Sharpsville’s state championship football team in 1997.

Note the shorts on McMath in the photo. Hey, it’s Florida! The weather is slightly different there at tournament time than it is in Pennsylvania.

ä The postseason gets under way in earnest this coming weekend as the Section tournaments open.

Mercer County matmen will be competing in either the Section 2 tourney at Sharon or Section 3 at Greenville.

Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at lsaternow@sharonherald.com.

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