CLARION -- The Clarion Area Bobcats wrestling squad returns to the mat for the 2001-2002 season with lofty goals, primarily to repeat as District IX champions and to improve on their third-place finish at the regional championships.
"I think we're probably ahead of our pace from last year," said Clarion Area head wrestling coach Randy Cathcart. "I don't know how good we're going to be but this group of kids is one of the hardest working group of kids that I've ever had. I really like the chemistry on this team and I really like their work ethics. The pace is a lot faster compared to last year and the intensity is greater. We're going to be young at a lot of weight classes but I like our team make up right now."
The Bobcats higher weight classes aren't as experienced as they were a year ago but are still anchored by two-time state champion Kyle Cathcart.
The younger Cathcart captured the 171-pound weight class his sophomore year and last year walked away with the 189-pound championship at states. Cathcart will split time between the heavyweight division and the 189-pound weight class this season, but will compete at districts in the 189-pound class.
The Bobcats leadership this season will be anchored by tri-captains Cathcart, Bryan Kiskadden and Matt Watterson.
"I've always said you're only as good as your captains," said coach Cathcart. "This year is no exception. We have three very exceptional captains. Not only exceptional wrestlers but also great leaders. I lean a lot on our captains and without their leadership I think our team is not nearly what it needs to be."
The Bobcats heavyweight class was one of the anchors of Clarion's squad last season with Joe Straw handling the big man duties for the squad. This season Clarion will look to senior Steve Balough to step up and take over the role of heavyweight.
"We're hoping Steve can step in and fill Joe's shoes," said coach Cathcart. "It's awful hard when you get someone like Steve or Davey Larson who is inexperienced. You just don't want to lean on him too much. You don't want to put a lot of pressure on a first-year or second-year kid."
The Bobcats middle weights have improved this season and will take some pressure off of the heavier weight classes this season.
"Hopefully this year we'll be stronger in the middle weights and not have to depend on our heavyweights. Last year if we weren't losing by 25 points we were pretty safe," said coach Cathcart. "This year it's not going to be that way and we're going to have to stay pretty competitive. Our heavyweights aren't nearly as experienced as they were last year."
The Bobcats finished last year on a strong run and are hoping to parlay their late season success into the 2001-2002 season.
"I can't say enough about last season's finish," said coach Cathcart. "We had so many great stories last year and the kids worked so hard to accomplish what they accomplished. I think this year we're carrying over last year's success. You can see it in their desire and you can see it in their work ethics."
Clarion's wrestling program is strengthened by the addition of several Clarion-Limestone students who wrestle with Clarion in a co-operative program.
"We have five kids from C-L this year on the varsity and all of them are tremendous kids," said coach Cathcart. "I can't say enough about their work ethics. What they lack in talent they over accomplish in work and desire. They are great compliments to our team."
The Bobcats' weight classes are a mixture of underclassmen and upperclassmen with one freshman starting on the varsity squad. Dave Louis, a freshman, will start in the 103-pound weight class for the Bobcats. The 103-pound class is an important one as it sets the momentum for the rest of the meet.
"Predominately District IX is not extremely strong at that weight class and most kids in the weight class are freshman. So I think it's going to be a great learning experience for Davey," said coach Cathcart.
The Bobcats also received more motivation this season when it was announced that Randy Cathcart will be inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association before the state championships March 9.
"First of all I'm not sure I'm worthy of the honor," said Cathcart. "I can only thank the Pennsylvania Coaches Association for the nomination. Wrestling has truly been a fantastic sport for me and this for me is an icing on the cake."
The nomination and induction could present a unique situation for the Cathcart family as Randy will be inducted to the Hall of Fame and Kyle will possibly be battling for his third straight state championship.
"He's (Kyle) is very goal oriented and the first thing he's trying to do is to help shape this team," said the older Cathcart. "He really hasn't focused on the state tournament yet and probably won't until the end of February. His goal right now is to help lead this team into another fantastic season like last year."
Following is a synopsis of the Bobcats' weight classes and the starting wrestlers for each weight class.
103-pounds: Freshman Dave Louis. Louis, a first-year addition to the varsity squad, will start at the 103-pound weight class for the Bobcats.
112-pounds: Josh McClaine&emdash;sophomore. McClaine started for the Bobcats last season at the 103-pound weight class and moves up a weight class this season.
119-pounds: T.J. Amato &endash; sophomore. Amato started last year in the 112-pound weight class and will also move up a weight class this season. Amato is a returning letterman for the Bobcats and will battle with Eric Henry for the starting position.
125-pounds: Lance Wolfe &endash; senior. Wolfe is a two-year letterman who is looking to drop down to the 125-pound weight class.
130-pounds: Bryan Kiskadden &endash; senior. Kiskadden, a tri-captain this season, moves up from the 119-pound weight class. Kiskadden will probably drop down to 125-pounds after Christmas.
135-pounds: Paul O'Neil &endash; senior. O'Neil is a three-year letterman and wrestled at 135 last season.
140-pounds: Matt Watterson &endash; Watterson is also a three-year letterman and qualified for state competition last season at 135-pounds last year. "Matt had a tremendous season last year," said Cathcart.
145-pounds: Adam Divins &endash; senior. The 145-pound weight class is an open weight class for the Bobcats, senior Adam Divins will probably split time with sophomore Caleb Kifer, who will also wrestle in the 152-pound weight class. Divins is a two-year letterman for the Bobcats.
152-pound weight class: Caleb Kifer &endash; sophomore, or Matt Snyder&emdash; sophomore. Kifer will split time in the 152-pound weight class and the 145-pound weight class. Snyder will battle Kifer for the starting position in the 152-pound weight class. Junior Brian Luton also figures into the action in the 152-pound weight class. Luton is out with a hernia and will return in about two or three weeks.
160-pounds: Marty Fischer &endash; senior. Fischer is another returning letter-winner from last season. Fischer placed fourth at districts in the 152-pound weight division.
171-pounds: Dave Eggleton &endash; junior, or Eric Tomeo &endash; Senior. Eggleton and Tomeo, both students at Clarion-Limestone and wrestling at Clarion Area on a cooperative agreement, will have a chance to compete for the 171 starting spot.
189-pounds: Dave Larson &endash; junior and Kyle Cathcart &endash; senior. Larson and Cathcart will split time at 189 while Cathcart also wrestles part-time in the heavyweight division. Cathcart was the state champion in 189-pounds last year and was the state champion in the 171-pound weight division in his sophomore season.
275-pounds: Steve Balough &endash; senior or
Cathcart. Balough will take over the heavyweight class for Clarion
Area, replacing the graduated Joe Straw. Cathcart will provide help
early in the season before dropping down to the 189-pound weight
class before districts.