Coach Krushnowski celebrates 200th win; Neglia headed for PIAA state tourney
At the start of the 2016-17 high school wrestling campaign, veteran Wallenpaupack Area head coach Steve Krushnowski didn't mince words when assessing his team's chances at a winning season.
“Slim to none,” he said with an enigmatic smile.
“Seriously. We're at the beginning of what looks like a three-year rebuilding process. If we come away with seven or eight wins total, I'll be satisfied.”
Interestingly enough, he offered similar odds on whether or not his best young grappler, sophomore Tyler Neglia, would make it to regionals.
“Thirty percent,” Coach Krushnowski said. “Neglia is a good young wrestler, but he has a lot to learn and a long way to go yet.”
Now, nearly three months removed from those dire predictions, Krushnowski is more than happy to eat a slice of humble pie.
Why? Well how about this: Paupack powered its way to a 14-9 dual meet record this year, doubling his estimate. In addition, Neglia not only advanced to regionals, but Tyler has now qualified for a trip to the PIAA State Meet.
“What an awesome ride this has been!” exclaimed Paupack's only head coach since the wrestling program was revived 16 years ago.
“It's been amazing. No kidding, this is the most excited I've ever been here. I can't even put it into words how I felt this weekend at regionals. I can't wait to get to Hershey.”
Krushnowski and his assistant coach Shawn Knisely took three wrestlers to Bethlehem Liberty High School this past weekend to compete at the Northeast Regional AAA tournament.
While Ryan Hartman and David DeGroat came up a bit short, Neglia finished fourth at 182 pounds and qualified for states.
This year's PIAA State Championships will get underway Thursday at the Giant Center and conclude on Saturday evening.
Before we even get to Neglia's achievements on the mat, we must take a moment to recognize Coach Krushnowski's recent milestone moment.
On Saturday, Feb. 4, the Buckhorns traveled to Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Philadelphia to take part in this year's edition of the Cougar Duals.
There, Paupack fought its way to a Top Ten finish with a 3-1 record. And, when the local lads defeated Daniel Boone in their final match of the tourney, Coach Krushnowski had himself the 200th win of his varsity career.
“It really means a lot,” he said. “There have been so many great kids that came through this program and so many great coaches, too.
“I have to thank all of them … and the parents, the school district and the community. It's been such a pleasure coaching here for the past 16 years.”
Krushnowski was quick to point out that he owes longtime assistant coach Shawn Knisely a huge debt of gratitude as well.
“I couldn't do any of this without Shawn,” he said.
“He's absolutely the best assistant coach anyone could ever want. He's so passionate about working with the kids and loyal almost to a fault. Shawn is a huge asset to this program.”
Paupack opened the match against Daniel Boone with three straight falls and cruised from there.
Michael Ortiz kicked things off with a second period pin at 138. Ryan Hartman followed with a fall at 145 and Anthony Krug needed just nine seconds to card his own clamp at 152.
“I think it's safe to say that the kids were a little bit fired up,” Krushnowski said with a chuckle. “They really wanted to get it for me and I love 'em for it.”
The final score was 45-33
When asked if he thinks he has another 200 wins in him, Krushnowski thought for a few moments before replying.
“I'd love to get to 300,” he said. “That's a big one and that would be fantastic. Beyond that? Who knows! I'm not getting any younger and the seasons seem to be getting longer every year.
“I still love working with the kids, though, and that's the bottom line.”
On to States
Neglia encountered a few bumps in the road this year.
However, as the season progressed, he seemed to grown steadily stronger.
Tyler battled his way to a 21-14 record last winter as a freshman, then headed into this year's District Two AAA tourney with 25.
Neglia finished second at districts, which catapulted him into this past weekend's Northeast Regionals.
Tyler tacked on three more wins at Bethlehem Liberty, placing fourth in his bracket and punching his ticket to states.
“He was just dominant on his feet,” Krushnowski said. “Nobody could take him down and he was just so mentally tough.
“Tyler really exceeded my expectations and I couldn't be prouder of him. This is going to be a great experience for him.”
Neglia will face Central Mountain's Caleb Turner in preliminary round action. Turner is the Northwest Region's third seed and sports a 34-6 record.
Tyler heads into the fray with a mark of 30-8.
End of the Line
Hartman and DeGroat each closed out a stellar campaign at regionals.
Ryan suffered back-to-back losses and finished up his sophomore season with a record of 25-12.
“He ran into a buzzsaw of a bracket,” Krushnowski said of Hartman's outing at 145. “Ryan will be back, though. He always gives 100 percent and I think he'll use this experience as motivation down the road.”
David opened his NE Regional medal quest with an opening round pin, but then was eliminated via two straight losses.
“What a great surprise DeGroat was this year!” exclaimed Krushnowski.
“He hadn't wrestled in a couple of years. But, then he comes out and wins 26 bouts and gets to regionals. Outstanding! Can't wait to see what he can do next season.”