PIN HIM DOWN — Jobe Fleming grapples with an Eden opponent, during the Pine Valley Tournament on Dec. 28. Photos by Dave
SPRINGVILLE — Springville-Griffith Institute wrestling coach Gary Feltz recalls a season, seven or eight years ago, when he had 45 athletes on his team. A few years later, Feltz struggled to even field a full team. This season, Springville sports a 19-member roster and can fill all 15 weight classes, during dual meets.
“We’ve been building, each of the last three years,” said Feltz. “We started the modified program three [years] ago and getting that interest, at a younger age, has made a huge difference. All the guys at practice gives us a little more competition and more encouragement.”
Feltz said that the reason for the decline in the wrestling program was a result of the team not being able to compete in junior varsity tournaments.
“It’s very difficult for a wrestler to work as hard as he does and not have an opportunity to compete,” said Feltz. “With only 15 spots on the varsity roster, that one year, we had 30 kids without an opportunity to compete. It’s hard to hang on when you’re in that situation, when day in and day out, you’re working just as hard as the other guys and you don’t have an opportunity.”
Now, Springville can compete at modified, junior varsity and varsity levels. Feltz takes his teams to junior varsity tournaments, as well as varsity tournaments, while Mark Vogel coaches the modified team.
The varsity team brought five wrestlers to the Pine Valley Tournament on Dec. 28 and all of them placed in the match.
Sophomore Jake Smith was Springville’s lone second-place finisher, as the four others brought home third-place medals. Smith went 4-1, at the tournament, in the 132 class, with his only blemish coming in a tight 7-6 loss to Eden’s Jesse Vondell. Smith has a 10-2 record on the season, including four pins.
“He’s put in his time,” said Feltz, of Smith. “He’s had some rough spells, in recent years, but his perseverance through those times has made him a quality wrestler. He’s having a really good year and it’s only going to get better.”
Smith broke the school record for escapes in a season, with 39 escapes as a freshman, last season.
Sophomore Bryce Szudzik finished third at the Pine Valley Tournament and now is 9-3 on the year at 132. As a freshman, Szudzik finished with a 7-5 record, while being pulled up, halfway through the year.
DOWN FOR THE COUNT — Bryce Szudzik celebrates after pinning his Eden opponent, during an earlier match against that team.
“Bryce is an extremely gifted athlete,” said Feltz. “He comes with a lot of natural hip abilities and awareness that a lot of wrestlers don’t have. He just started varsity wrestling mid-season of last year. I’ve been holding him back a bit, so he gets some experience at the modified and JV levels, and to give him some confidence to learn and perfect difficult moves. He’s really coming along.”
Jobe Fleming, at 120; Zack Swank, at 113 and Ian Baker, at 152, each finished in third place in their respective weight classes, at the tournament.
The Springville varsity wrestling squad will continue its hard-driving season with a dual match that will go up against rival Lackawanna on Jan. 15.