WRESTLING: Hazleton Area Consistently Dominant At WVCs
LEHMAN TWP. — Hazleton Area wrestling’s latest conference title has spurred a bit of a family debate.
The Cougars celebrated their record third victory at the Wyoming Valley Conference tournament Saturday at Lake-Lehman. They scored the second-highest points total (249) in the 10-year history of the event, doing so with five champions and 11 total medalists all placing third or higher.
Despite all that, coach Keith Maurer said he’s been hearing this squad isn’t quite the best — through conversations with his son, Jacob, a member of the 2017 title team that had five seniors with 100 career victories. Maurer simply chose to abstain from taking a side.
“He’s trying to say that that team’s better than this team. As I’ve been back and forth, they’re really two different teams,” coach Maurer said. “That team had a really core group of kids that were really good. This might sound bad, but this team might not have the most talented kids on it, but there’s more of them.
“Eleven of them in the top-three? I don’t know if we’ve done that. That’s pretty good.”
A brief look at the tournament’s history shows that Hazleton Area — no school, for that matter — had ever placed 11 wrestlers in the top-three before.
As the numbers continue to indicate, there’s not as much debate when it comes to whether the Cougars have historically been one the best teams in the WVC tournament. It’s been a decade of dominance for Hazleton Area, which by multiple measures has enjoyed the most success at the league’s annual championships.
Let’s start with the Cougars’ sheer volume of conference medalists.
They have the most top-six finishes overall, slightly edging No. 2 Coughlin, 85-83. Of the 840 WVC medals awarded since 2010, roughly 10.1 percent have taken the ride back to Hazleton Area. In fact, the Cougars have won at least seven medals — in other words, podium appearances in half of the 14 weight classes — in every single WVC tournament.
When the Cougars reach the WVC medal stand, they’re often near the top.
Of the league’s 140 total champions, 27 (about 19.3 percent) have had their hands raised in Hazleton Area uniforms. Valley West is second-best with 19 winners, and Tunkhannock is third at 16.
Only five teams have ever crowned more than three champions in a single tournament. Hazleton Area was behind three of those seasons, with an all-time best six in the inaugural event.
The Cougars have had multiple champions crowned in seven tournaments; only Valley West (six) and Tunkhannock (four) come close there.
Maurer said his team’s tournament schedule could set his wrestlers up for such success.
“I feel by this time in the season we’re usually pretty battle-tested. We wrestled some good kids. We wrestled some tough tournaments,” he said. “I think by this time, this is where we look to peak.
“Fortunately for me — knock on wood — that’s been able to happen.”
Senior Shane Noonan, a repeat champion Saturday, also noted the positive energy around the team during his years.
“We push each other to the limit. We’re like a brotherhood,” Noonan said. “Everyone’s always proud of each other. It’s a good feeling.”
It’s not all about the winners, either. With 12 runners-up, the Cougars’ 39 all-time finalists are also tops in the league (Valley West has had 33).
Of course, Hazleton Area isn’t alone in finding regular success at the tournament.
Coughlin, Valley West and Pittston Area have won two team titles. Coughlin is just behind in the medal count, Valley West is almost in finals as often, and Tunkhannock has its own corner carved out in league history with 13 medalists and 261.5 team points in 2016.
Ten years into this tournament, though, it’ll take a tough case to argue that any school has consistently wrestled better than the Cougars.
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