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Plenty of optimism in Ephrata wrestling camp
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
It’s been a while since there was this much optimism coming out of the Ephrata wrestling camp. But it comes with good reason.
The Mounts return a total of 10 letterwinners to the mix, including former District qualifiers Chad and Mike Lammer, as well as Todd Dumas, from a team that went 3-3 in Section Two a year ago. Add to that mix of returnees a talented group of eight wrestlers up from the middle school team and the Mounts have talent, depth and a team that could seriously challenge in the Section Two race.
"This is the largest team we’ve had in quite a few years," seven-year Coach Josh Clair said. "I’ve had some teams in the past that might have had some better individual talent, but as a whole, from top to bottom, this should be one of our stronger teams. The kids have been working hard. More importantly, they are believing and expecting to win this year. In the past, we had some guys who would buy in but this year as a team, as a whole, they are definitely expecting good things and believe that they can beat anybody."
In a year Ephrata celebrates its 50th year of wrestling, the Mounts will be one of the few teams in the section that will be able to fill every slot in the lineup, which hasn’t been the case here in recent years. That alone should increase Ephrata’s chances a great deal from match to match.
"Starting with our tournament we wrestled Daniel Boone and going into the match we got 24 points to start because they had four forfeits and we had none," Clair said. "I’m looking around in our section and we are definitely one of the few teams that has a full lineup so we should be starting every match ahead of every other team. That’s good, and the young guys are stepping up. We are still pretty young but just getting those extra points builds the kids’ confidence and things can roll."
Thus far, Ephrata has begun the year 3-3 in dual meets thus far, but is 0-1 in the section after opening league play with a loss to Garden Spot. With that being said, the Mounts did so without both Lammers who have been out of the lineup for an undisclosed reason but are scheduled to return at the Donegal Tournament Dec. 30.
"I hate to say we’ve weathered the storm because these guys as a team have all stepped up quite nicely, but we are 3-3 to start the year and I truly feel had we had Mike and Chad we definitely would have beaten Garden Spot," Clair said. "Once we get those two guys back in our lineup, looking at the rest of our schedule, I truly believe it’s going to be tough for any other team to beat us."
The Lammers, along with Dumas, all had 20-plus wins a season ago. That threesome, along with the improvement of Ethan Sipe (voted a captain as a sophomore), Danny Matos and Jeff Halligan to name a few, as well as the influx of young talent are just some of the reasons for Clair’s optimism.
"Mike and Chad both put a lot of time in the off season and have improved quite a bit," Clair said. "Not that they weren’t good in the past but they’ve gotten a whole lot stronger. Todd Dumas obviously being a former district qualifier as well and Danny Matos right now is leading the team in a lot of our categories and just finished fifth at the Penn Manor Tournament. And we expect a lot of good things from guys like Riley Eidemiller and Ethan Sipe. We got some young guys too like Cameron Eisenhauer, who has filled in quite nicely and is a good one up top, and Jeff Halligan was a first year kid last year who won one match by forfeit. He dropped down to 182 this year from 189 and 215 and he’s already 5-3 to start the year. We really do have a nice blend this year."
As far as expectations are concerned, Clair said getting the 400th win in program history (they entered the season with 388) is something they are definitely shooting for, among other things.
"The first expectation we established from Day One was to get to 400," he said. "We are currently at 391 and we still have 11 dual meets to go so that’s very achievable looking at our schedule the rest of the year. I mean I think we definitely got some of our tougher matches out of the way. Also, we wanted to win the section title, and if we run the table the rest of the section matches and somebody knocks off Garden Spot there is still that chance. But to finish in second place definitely would be acceptable. And just trying to get double digit guys to place both at leagues and sectionals. It’s definitely possible with the lineup we are going to be putting out." More MOUNT MATMEN, page B-4