Low numbers biggest challenge for Ephrata

By on November 30, 2016
Ephrata’s Austin Jones (top) is one of the top returnees for the Mounts in 2016-17.

Ephrata’s Austin Jones (top) is one of the top returnees for the Mounts in 2016-17.

When you lack the numbers to put together a full dual meet lineup, wins certainly are hard to come by.

That has been the case for the Ephrata wrestling team the last few seasons, which has regularly forfeited several weight classes and in turn has gone 5-34 overall the last two years, including last season’s 3-17 campaign.

Frankly, until the numbers in the program grow, wins will be hard to collect. Heading into 2016-17, Ephrata figures to be challenged to place a wrestler at every weight with a roster of just 15 (as of L-L Media Day on Nov. 13).

“As of right now, (we’ll forfeit probably) at least two weights per match,” 12-year Ephrata Coach Josh Clair said at Media Day. “It’s a process. Our weakness right now is our numbers, but everything kind of goes in cycles. I mean, look at our neighbors, Garden Spot and Cocalico. Their numbers were down and now they are way up, and we are down. But our numbers at the elementary level is starting the year right around 70 kids before practices begin which is more than they’ve had in a long time. So, as their numbers come up we are going to start seeing the influx of those kids at the middle school and the varsity levels.”

But while the Mounts surely lack in numbers at the varsity level, they do pack some punch with the guys that are there. A good example of that came at last year’s L-L Tournament when the Mounts entered just six wrestlers but finished 11th out of 22 in the team standings.

“We realize that we have the kids…we just need the bodies,” Clair said.

Ephrata returns eight veterans to the lineup, led by senior District qualifiers Austin Jones and Cameron Terry.

Jones enters his senior season poised to become the eighth wrestler in program history to reach 100 wins. An L-L champion a year ago, Jones went 30-7 on the year to up his career mark to 75-31.

“Obviously I want to go to States this year but I just want to focus on having fun and trying to score points out there and let it all play out,” Jones said of his individual goals.

As for Terry, 100 wins is within striking distance as well (he has a career mark of 65-48) but would need a big post-season run to reach the Century Mark.

Both he and Jones will once again anchor the top of the Mounts’ lineup.

“My goal is to medal at States this year and I just want to be able to have a great end to my last year in high school,” Terry said.

In addition to Jones and Terry, four other seniors return, led by L-L sixth-place finisher Tyler Mentzer, who went 25-14 a year ago. The others include: Collin Brandt (3-10); Josh Harple (5-17); and Andrew Wagner (0-15).

Two juniors also are back in Tyler Hart (6-18) and Kelvin Cruz (4-13), while some notable newcomers to the lineup will include sophomores Kevin Gordon and Nate Casteneda, as well as freshmen Drew Myers and Cocalico transfer Allen Swofford.

“I think it’s realistic that we can go at least .500 this year,” Jones said. “I’m not going to put any limits on the team but I think we can definitely attain that.”

Terry added, “I agree. I’d definitely like to see a few more wins out the team than last year.”

For that to happen, the Mounts will have to stay healthy, which was a problem last year.

“Every year we are either short with numbers or we get injuries. Last year, unfortunately we had both,” Clair said. “We had as little as six guys at a couple matches. At one point in time we had three or four who had concussions, a broken wrist…and they were all starters. The biggest things is staying healthy. We know if we have 11 kids, and they are all healthy, we don’t care if we are giving up 18 points…we know we are going to be competitive.”

As far as Section Two is concerned, it took a bit of a hit this year with the last two champions, Cocalico and Conestoga Valley, both moving up to Section One. Cedar Crest drops down from One to Two, but Clair sees a wide-open race with the Falcons and the remaining teams.

“In my opinion the section is open,” he said. “I know Central is going to be tough, and Garden Spot traditionally is tough, but a lot is going to depend on once we find out who is certified where. It’s open this year. I don’t think you have the cream of the crop separated because I know Manheim and Garden Spot both lost some good kids so it all going to depend on how teams fill the weights.”

The Mounts host the Ephrata Duals to open the season on December 10. It is one of four tournaments in which they’ll compete throughout the season. On Dec. 16-17, Ephrata will head to the Carlisle Tournament. The Mounts also will compete in the Hatboro-Horsham Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-30 before participating in the York Suburban Tournament Jan. 21.

The Mounts will get into section play on Wednesday, December 14 when they host Section Two newcomer Cedar Crest.

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