Bermudian Springs coach Dave McCollum took time reflect on his program's run. Here's what he had to say:
When you look back to when the run started, what stood out?
I think we just happened to have the right mix of guys at the right time. I think it stems back to the beginning of our youth programs, back at least I'm guessing eight or 10 years prior. Those youth kids coming out of the youth programs we started ... we had an intramural program for a long time, but it got to the point where we had some parent volunteers get two youth programs going. We have one now, where those two combined. I think that was the key: those kids getting out at a younger age and competing. It's just doing those things that seem to need to be done now to be competitive.
What do you think is a key to the success?
The key is having consistent faces the kids can look forward to. They know the head coach, the head junior high coach. I think it's important to have the consistency to keep the kids in it.
Are the same parents involved who started the youth programs?
It's mainly the parents of the kids coming up. It's kind of wild. My goal as a coach was to get Bermudian's wrestlers to a college level. That's what we have gotten to. It wasn't necessarily to win, but to bring our level of competition up to move these kids on to a level of wrestling that's beyond Bermudian.
Do you think the toughest part is getting it started? How?
It's real tough. It's real demanding. It was a real concern of mine as a varsity coach when they, Rhonda Schmelyun and Bryce Marshall's mother, wanted to start a program outside of the school. I was so glad they came to me and were willing to do this because it would be a tremendous burden on a coach. Jan Smith, a former wrestler, currently runs it. He's done a tremendous job.
With increased expectations and more time put into these programs, do you worry things are changing too much?
That's the thing that scares me. I'm a little cautious about it. Some kids can do that, but other kids don't have the mindset. You have to know which kids can do that.
Were there any particular matches that stand out when you think of that run?
There were so many great matches. Every match seemed like it was a great match. The kids were so into it and excited to wrestle, even when they knew they were going to win. One of the greatest matches would have probably been -- there was two of them -- but probably when we lost in the state finals two years ago against Burrell. I think it was one of the greatest matches in Class AA in the state finals.
I sent a tape of the finals to a friend in Georgia. He said it was a clinic and "I don't know how you guys lost."
How did the kids handle that streak?
I can tell you in those three years, we hardly ever talked about winning. Those kids just loved to wrestle. Honestly, we didn't (talk about it). We encouraged our kids to do their best week after week, and we really didn't put any pressure on them to win.
How have you handled the program since that streak?
It's a big adjustment. We had a great year this year, but the little things, this year's team just couldn't take care of. I don't know if we got spoiled. We worked just as hard. It's just a lot of little things didn't go our way. Those three years, it seemed like everything went our way -- even when they weren't supposed to.
Do you think you can appreciate the run more now that is over?
Oh yeah. It's surreal. When I sit down and watch the video tape now, a year later, with a clear head .
Can you put that effort it into words?
It's hard to. They didn't have a fear of losing. I can honestly say that. I think it's because they loved wrestling.
Would you say the last few years have changed you as a coach?
I'd say each year has been a learning experience. I guess you could say we're in the public's eye more, and now Bermudian Springs is getting all this attention. I think this is the hardest part of coaching.
What do you think is the toughest part of coaching, maybe now after the run?
I think the hardest part isn't coaching the sport, but keeping the kids focused on the sport. There's so many distractions. Those three years, we were lucky to have kids that were totally into the sport. You don't always have that.
How much does that run help the program?
I think it helps tremendously as long as it's handled properly. It's crazy. In high school sports, every year is a new year.
A LOOK BACK
Eagles' claim to fame
'Balance' and 'stars' were the key words in Bermudian's success. The balance in the lineup meant opponents weren't guaranteed team bonus points, the stars meant the Eagles were. The Eagles carved out three straight unbeaten seasons in Division II from 2005-2008.
The 2007-08 Eagle team became the first YAIAA team to reach the finals of the PIAA Team Wrestling Championship, losing a 37-29 decision to District 7 powerhouse Burrell in the Class AA finals.
2005-06 -- First team, Nick Blasone, Dustin Eyler, Bryce Marshall, Derek Schmelyun, Rickey Schmelyun (Division II Wrestler of the Year).
2006-07 -- First team, Nick Blasone, Seth Hoffman, Bryce Marshall, Devin O'Brien, Derek Schmelyun, Tyler Stambaugh.
2007-08 -- First team, Devin O'Brien, Derek Schmelyun (Division II Wrestler of the Year), Tyler Stambaugh.
2005-06 -- Reached the District 3 Class AA Team Tournament semifinals, losing to eventual champion Boiling Springs; Took team sectional crown with 230.5 points.
2006-07 -- Finished second in District 3 Class AA Team Tournament to earn berth in PIAA Championships; Went 3-2 in PIAA Class AA Team Championships; Took team sectional crown with 216.5 points.
2007-08 -- Won the District 3 Class AA Team Tournament championship, defeating Brandywine, 36-21; Reached the final of the PIAA Class AA Team Tournament, losing to Burrell, 37-29; Won the District 3 Class AA Section I title with 188 points.
Bryce Marshall -- Multi-time medalist in PIAA Class AA Championships including fourth place in 2006 and seventh place in 2007; 2006 District 3 champion.
Devin O'Brien -- Third-place finish in 2008 PIAA Class AA Championships; Silver medal in District 3 Class AA Championships.
Derek Schmelyun -- Multi-time medalist in PIAA Class AA Championships including eighth-place medal in 2007 and third-place finish in 2008 PIAA Class AA Championships; 2008 District 3 champion.
Rickey Schmelyun -- 2006 PIAA state champion at 140; 2006 Southeast regional and District 3 champion; Senior year record was 42-0.
Rickey Schmelyun, Bloomsburg University: -- 2009 NCAA qualifier.
From the archives
A look back at the Daily Record/Sunday News stories over the years:
The Bermudian Springs trio of Bryce Marshall (112), Rickey Schmelyun (140) and Dustin Eyler (145) headed the Class AA contingent of champions ....
Schmelyun was his usual dominating self in the finals, which only lasted 1:15.
The Eagle senior, now 35-0, took down Palmyra's Ben Miller in the first 20 seconds of the bout and after a couple of near turns, put the Cougar junior on his back to stay with a double arm-bar. It was his second district title after winning at 130 last season.
The road to the YAIAA Division II wrestling title wasn't easy for Bermudian Springs.
Not only did the Eagles have to contend with tough opponents such as Biglerville and Hanover on the mat, they had their share of off-the-mat problems, ranging from starters quitting for personal reasons to key injuries.
While disappointed with the finals result, Eagles coach Dave McCollum was certainly happy with the effort he received from his entire team.
"Almost a dream come true," he said. "I thought we wrestled a great match in the finals. The kids came out and wrestled their hearts out.
"Bringing it down to the last match you can't ask for a better state final than that."
-- Matt Goul and Tom Hunt