By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
WHEN WAS the last time Reynolds High�s heralded wrestling program took a backseat to basketball?
Though the Raider wrestlers of veteran mentor Brian Hills are headed toward another stellar season following their recent win in the prestigious Manheim Lions Holiday tournament, Reynolds� roundballers no longer can be ignored.
As the new year dawns, coach Scott Weaver�s Raiders are 10-0, while Bob Chamberlain�s Lady Raiders are 9-0.
Chris Laverty recently established the Raiders� career cage scoring mark (1,297, bypassing Richie Burnworth�s 1,194), while Russell Conley also surpassed the career 1,000-point milestone. Their two-man, inside-outside game is the cornerstone of a 10-senior core returning from a 16-8 squad.
�We have lot of experience back from last year�s squad, and I�d like to think that has a lot to do with getting off to a good start,� Weaver reflected following a recent win at Jamestown. �We�re, pretty much, starting off right where we left off last year. We knew what to expect because the kids have played together for years now, so they know what to expect from each other. They�re hard workers, so it made it very easy to get off to a fast start this season.�
While routing Cochranton, Commodore Perry, Seneca, VisionQuest and Jamestown, the Raiders� resolve surfaced against Class AAA Meadville (75-66), as well as in back-to-back victories over Neshannock (50-47) and West Middlesex (47-42) at the latter�s annual Kiwanis Club holiday tourney.
�We�ve had some challenging games of late � three in a row (including 69-66 at Rocky Grove) decided by a total of 11 points,� Weaver reflected, �so we have been challenged. Against Meadville, we picked up�that win and I thought it was a game we wanted to prove a point against a bigger school.
�But,� Weaver cautioned, �we�re gonna find out a lot here coming up the next couple weeks. We have (8-1) Kennedy on Tuesday, then possibly (District 10 regional opponents) Lakeview, Sharpsville and Wilmington. So we�ve got some teams that definitely can beat us.
�As a coach you�re always looking for ways to improve, but yeah,� Weaver admitted, �when you look at your win-loss record and you haven�t lost yet, it�s a good start. But we kind�ve hit a little area the three games (prior to Jamestown) that we kind�ve were a little flat. We talked about it with the team, and they know we want to get some momentum going into this next week.�
Chamberlain�s Lady Raiders are led by Chelsea D�Urso and Brittany Nelson. D�Urso has delivered approximately 16 points per game, while Nelson has notched about a dozen per outing. They have scored in double digits 8 and 7 times, respectively, and Nelson nestled her name among the elite with a recent triple-double in a win over Wilmington.
Commencing the campaign at home Reynolds routed Maplewood and Cochranton, then the Lady Raiders� recorded road wins over Kennedy Catholic (51-37), Lakeview (52-35), Grove City (53-37) and Sharpsville (44-27). After returning to Transfer to take down Mercer and Seneca, they won again at New Wilmington, extending their skein of double-figures victories in every game to date.
The lone blemish thus far was an ACL knee injury sustained by athletic Kara Mostoller � a state-caliber track and field jumper, who is lost for the year following recent surgery. But role players such as Jolene Parker and Jill Siege have the Lady Raiders region record at 4-0.
�The boys are doing fantastic!� Chamberlain graciously said following a recent win. �Coach Weaver is doing a great job and his kids are playing hard and our girls always play hard, so it�s been fun.
�We have 15 girls on the team, and they�re all friends, they enjoy being together,� Chamberlain continued, noting the inclusion of some eighth-graders to acclimate them to his self-described �family� atmosphere.
�We�ve put together a nice �family� and they enjoy being together, so it helps,� he added.
� A pair of prolific scorers are closing in on career marks at their respective schools, as seniors Marsell Holden and Kyle Randall are ripping the nets this season.
Both have scored in double digits every night out, with Holden hitting for 34 and 37, respectively, against New Castle and Poland, while Randall ripped Lakeview for 30, and twice tickled the twine for 29 (Mercer, Wilmington).
Holden has 1,364 points, and recently surpassed Mercer County Hall-of-Famer Dave Johnson (1,321) in Farrell�s fabled, hallowed history. He trails Julius McCoy (1,471), Gravelle Craig (1,425) and Shawn Roberts (1,386).
After a monster 798-point junior season, Randall has rifled in 1,513 points and is closing in on John Reimold�s record (1,621). Reimold was named The Associated Press� Class A player of the year as a senior after getting the Golden Eagles to the PIAA pedestal.
Not coincidently, Farrell has forged 4 consecutive wins (Hickory, Sharon, Pine-Richland, Strong Vincent) as skipper Roland Shannonhouse�s Steelers are now 5-3, while coach Marlon McGaughy and Kennedy have KO�d every opponent except John F. Kennedy, which won 61-60 in Hermitage on a buzzer-beater.
Ironically, Holden and Randall were teammates as sophomores when Kennedy came within a point of reaching the Class A title tilt before bowing to DuBois Central Catholic.
Herald sports writer Rob Malsom contributed statistical research
By Ed Farrell