With 2013-2014 behind us and three graduated PIAA Champions gone, we look ahead to what is in store for YAIAA wrestling in 2014-2015.
Gone are Chance Marsteller and his unprecedented four state titles and 166-0 career record. Also gone are a pair of AA champs and Dapper Dan participants in Hanover's Ian Brown and Bermudian Springs Tristan Sponseller.
The cupboard isn't bare though in the YAIAA, as a trio of Sponseller's teammates return for their own run at state gold's in Sam McCollum, Colton Dull and Briton Shelton. Those three paired with some other key returnees and a new District 3 team format have the Eagles looking forward to states.
It won't be easy, as perennial District 3 power Boiling Springs stands in their way of District gold, and in prior years, even a trip to the state tournament.
District 3 this season has changed its team tournament format in AA by introducing a "true second" component. In previous years, the semifinal losers would be eliminated from the postseason. This year with the "true second" component, the semifinal losers will face off at the same time as the championship is contested. If the winner of that "consolation" has not faced the loser of the championship then they will immediately face off for the second PIAA tournament bid.
Last year, that likely would have seen the Eagles go to the PIAA tournament. Instead, Hamburg got the nod.
That isn't the only change in the postseason this year, as the PIAA has expanded its individual tournament to 20 teams instead of the prior 16.
How will this change effect the YAIAA?
In AAA, it won't change anything this year, but every other year starting with the 2015-2016 season District 3 AAA will send five wrestlers to states, in the other years they will send four.
In AA, it won't change the District's qualifiers to the regional pool, but the Southeast Regional will now receive six qualifiers instead of five. Had that rule been in place last year, four YAIAA wrestlers would have received PIAA tournament bids.
There are 10 returning PIAA qualifiers this year in the YAIAA, led by the Bermudian trio of Dull, Shelton and McCollum. South Western also returns two in Derek Wilson and Owen Wherley.
Also returning to the fold are New Oxford's Zurich Storm, Central York's Dylan Chatterton (now at 145 after wrestling 106 and 113 the last two years), Kennard-Dale's Michael Bracey, Biglerville's Scott Cooper and Hanover's Caleb Garland.
Another big change in YAIAA is the addition of Gettysburg and expanding to three Divisions instead of two in the past.
Here is the new YAIAA breakdown:
Division I: South Western, New Oxford, Spring Grove, Red Lion, Dallastown, Central York and Northeastern.
Division II: West York, Gettysburg, Kennard-Dale, York Suburban, Eastern York, Dover and Susquehannock.
Division III: Bermudian Springs, Biglerville, Delone Catholic, Littlestown, Hanover, York County Tech and Fairfield.
With that being said, let's look at our first YAIAA power rankings and my division predictions.
1. South Western - The Mustangs, with a new coach in Nate Murren, return a ton of experience, most of them now sophomores and juniors. After knocking off New Oxford in the first round of the District 3 tournament last year, the Mustangs nearly beat Exeter in the quarterfinals. The experienced Mustangs could challenge for a PIAA tournament spot this year. Among those returning for the Mustangs are Derek Wilson (junior, returning PIAA qualifier), Owen Wherley (junior, returning PIAA qualifier), Chase Mowery (sophomore, returning District 3 Qualifier), Gage Thomas (junior, returning District 3 qualifier) and Seth Janney (sophomore, returning District 3 fifth place).
2. Bermudian Springs - It was a tough choice for the top spot between the Mustangs and the Eagles (if only they would meet this year!). The Eagles upperweights are loaded despite some football injuries. Colton Dull (PIAA 7th last year) made his debut last weekend after an MCL injury sustained in the District 3 Football Semifinal against Wyomissing. Cody Rowland, at 195-pounds, is likely out for the season with a torn ACL also picked up in football. The Eagles still return Briton Shelton (PIAA 4th last year), Sam McCollum (PIAA 8th last season), and Brady Linebaugh in the upper weights. They also return Austin Clabaugh, Jarod Miller and Ashton West in the lower weights.
3. New Oxford - The Colonials return nine starters to a team that got better as the season went along last year. Zurich Storm headlines that list as a returning PIAA qualifier last year as a freshman. Can the Colonials push South Western for the Division I title this year as they did last year when they were co-champions with the Mustangs and Spring Grove. Or do they come up short?
T-4. Spring Grove - The Rockets were gutted by graduation a year ago, losing three PIAA qualifiers (Zach Clingan, Michael Hartman and Mason Bentzel) as well as four more District 3 qualifiers (Alec Zorbaugh, Dakota Laughman, Trey Baker and CJ Sterner). But if the opening two weeks have shown us anything, it's that the Rockets are no pushovers. Dalton Rohrbaugh (106) Marcus Kehr (160) have been impressive early on, taking home championships at the Solanco tournament to start the season.
T-4. Red Lion - Yes, Red Lion is No. 4 in the first power rankings. The Lions didn't lose anyone from last year's 13-3 squad from last year that entered the District 3 tournament as a No. 8 seed. The Lions return nine starters with significant experience, most of them sophomores this year. Do they have enough to push South Western and New Oxford, or are they a year or two away?
Honorable Mentions (Alphabetically): Biglerville, Dallastown, Delone Catholic, Kennard-Dale, West York.
Division Predictions:Division I - I expect South Western to control Division I, yet possibly pushed by the trio of Red Lion, New Oxford and Spring Grove. I expect Dallastown, Central York and Northeastern to finish below.
Division II - This is a very interesting division, as the last time a team from here won a YAIAA title was in 1998-99. A very long drought will be snapped this year. While it's wide open, I expect West York and Kennard-Dale to push for the title with Dover, Eastern York, Gettysburg, Susquehannock and York Suburban all pushing as well. I could see West York winning it, but just as easily as Susquehannock doing the same thing.
Division III - Bermudian Springs should win this title, but it should be closer than in the past, as Biglerville and Delone Catholic both return an impressive core of wrestlers. Littlestown could even push the Canners and Squires for second place. Hanover, York County Tech and Fairfield should bring up the rear.
First day of practice at Hanover. (Clare Becker -- GameTimePA.com)
The Week Ahead:This week, GameTimePA.com will feature a Livestream on Thursday of Susquehannock at York Suburban. Also, if you missed the South Western at New Oxford classic last week, you can watch it in our archives.
Match of the Week: New Oxford at Red Lion (Thursday, Dec. 18) and the Northern Lebanon Duals (Saturday, Dec. 20).
-The battle between the Colonials and the Lions could be crucial, not only in the Division I standings but also for the District 3 Power Rankings.
-The Northern Lebanon Duals should be very good this year, as a quality Vikings team will host several talented teams including Bermudian Springs, Red Lion and York Suburban from the YAIAA. This will be a great measuring stick for the Eagles and Lions.
How would you rank the top 5 teams? Who wins each division? Comment below or tweet your picks to @ameaseYDR
Come back next week for an updated power rankings, review of the top matches and a look ahead to the holiday tournaments.