Western Wayne varsity wrestling team ready to rumble

Over the course of the last decade, Western Wayne carved out a spot for itself among the truly elite varsity wrestling programs … thanks in large part to the efforts of Dante Terenzio.

A three-time Class AA Coach of the Year, Terenzio directed the Wildcats to eight Lackawanna League titles and four District Two championships.

At one point, his teams reeled off 57 consecutive dual meet wins and made three straight appearances at the PIAA state tournament in Hershey.

Last winter, the 'Cats posted a perfect 8-0 record en route to another Division II crown. They nearly won another D2 duals title, but fell to Honesdale in a wild gold medal match.

Transition

In the wake of all these accomplishments, Terenzio decided to take the next step in his career.

Dante has accepted the head coaching job at Bethlehem Freedom, a perennial championship contender in District 11.

He begins his rookie year with the Patriots Saturday by hosting the “Battle of Bethlehem.” This duals tourney will feature eight teams from District 1 and District 11.

Meanwhile, Western Wayne has hired Scott Rush to be Dante's successor.

Rush is a 1991 graduate and a standout high school wrestler in his own right. Scott won back-to-back district titles in '90 and '91 at heavyweight.

A veteran of the district's elementary program, Rush is excited about his first head coaching opportunity.

“I really love working with the kids,” he said before Wednesday's practice. “I'm excited to get going and the kids are just champing at the bit.”

Coach Rush will get his first chance this weekend at the Catasaqua Invitational Tournament. The Wildcats then open up the 2018-19 Lackawanna League season Wednesday night at home versus Montrose.

Mat action gets underway at 6:45 p.m. in the middle school gymnasium.

Leadership

When asked about this year's team, Coach Rush didn't hesitate in singling out several battle-tested veterans as potential leaders on and off the mat.

Mitchell Herzog is the lone returning senior of the Wildcat roster. He posted a solid 23-15 record last year at 132 and earned a fourth place medal at districts.

“I'm looking for big things from Mitchell this year,” Coach Rush said.

“He's more of a technical wrestler than a pinner, but I think he has a real shot at making noise at districts and getting to regionals.”

Kasen Taylor and Matt Leslie each played key roles for the varsity last winter. Both are sophomores and each brings an unique skill set to the table.

Taylor burst onto the scene as a frosh, piling up 28 wins, medaling at districts and finishing sixth at regionals. He'll see most of his action at 152 and 160 this season.

“Kasen is more of a vocal leader,” Coach Rush said.

“He has great mat awareness and never seems to get himself into a bad spot. Kasen is very good on his feet. He's a technically sound wrestler.”

Leslie bounced among 138, 145 and 152 last year. He amassed 24 victories, medaled at districts and advanced to regionals.

Leslie will most likely start the season at 145.

“Matt's tank is just never empty,” Coach Rush said.

“He gives us 100 percent every single time he steps out there. Matt is a very dedicated wrestler and he leads by example.”

New Chapter

Coach Rush inherits a solid team and a well-organized program from his predecessor.

“I have nothing by good things to say about Dante,” he said. “He brought this program back after it had been struggled for quite a while. My goal is to keep it at this level and eventually start moving it forward.”

Western Wayne will once again be competing in Division II against the likes of Scranton Prep, Elk Lake, Mountain View, Montrose, Blue Ridge and Trail.

Honesdale, which has been the Wildcats' archrival the past several years, has moved up to Division I.

“You can't take anyone for granted,” Coach Rush said. “No matter who it is, we have to go out there and wrestle our best. We're not looking past anybody.”

Western Wayne's biggest question mark at the start of the season will be in the upper weights. The 'Cats are currently struggling to fill both 220 and 285.

“We have a couple of kids there, but no one has really stepped up yet,” said Coach Rush. “I'm optimistic though. We'll figure it out.”

The rookie skipper is looking forward to this weekend's action … his first as varsity head coach.

“It's going to be a tremendous learning experience for me and for the kids,” Coach Rush said. “The main thing I want to see is good, sound technical wrestling.”

Western Wayne finished third at the Rough Rider Tournament last year. The Wildcats tallied 68 points, trailing only Lake Lehman (128) and Central (111) in the final standings.