Under the guidance of coach Andrew Polashuk, the Littlestown wrestling team has had its fair share of success in recent years.
Polashuk helped lead Connor Brown to two trips to the state tournament, including an eighth-place finish in 2020. He also helped Brown to over 100 career wins and helped guide Ayden Dillon to a state qualification two seasons ago.
The Bolts went 13-3 overall last winter, and were runners-up in the YAIAA-3 at 5-1.
Now, Polashuk faces perhaps his toughest test, leading a Thunderbolts’ team that will be without Brown and Dillon as well as lineup stalwart Mason Hurst in 2021-22 after the trio graduated a year ago.
“Losing three top guys, especially with Connor and Ayden, is tough,” Polashuk said of this year’s team. “But we’re excited about the guys we do have. The offseason really helped us try to build that next generation of leaders.”
Two wrestlers he mentioned specifically were sophomores Caden Rankin and Cameron Mingee, both whom had strong finishes to their freshmen seasons a year ago, with Rankin reaching the District 3-2A Championships and Mingee one-upping him, qualifying for the regional tournament.
“Mingee’s a unique wrestler,” Polashuk said. “He’s a scrapper. He likes to use funk and getting into some weird positions and wrestling through positions that I just can’t coach. He’s got great hips and balance and feel. So he’s going to win a lot of matches just by being comfortable in those positions.”
Mingee went 20-6 a year ago and is expected to wrestle at either 126 or 132 pounds this season. Rankin, in comparison, is a bit more conventional.
“Caden wrestles hard,” Polashuk said. “He really came out late in the season last year and we think he can carry some of that momentum into this year.”
Other names that Polashuk said fans should watch far are Dylan Herr, Tanner Rock, Alex Shirdon and Tanner Yingling, all of whom are sophomores except Rock, who is a freshman. But it’s senior Thomas Carucci who he called the team’s emotional leader.
“Carucci will do everything that’s asked of him. He’s the ‘rah-rah’ guy,” Polashuk said. “He’s thinned out this year and right around 189 and may even make the drop down to 172. He’s wrestling as confidently now as we’ve ever seen him and I think he can have a good year.”
He also mentioned senior Zach Eader as someone ready for a breakthrough.
“Zach Eader is a guy who has had a bit of a tough go of it,” he said. “He’s a great wrestler, but he’s just never found his way into the lineup. At first he was stuck behind Connor Brown and then Mason Hurst and he couldn’t go down, because he’d be behind Dillon. But this year he should slot into the lineup and we think he can have a pretty good year for us.”
Lastly, Polashuk said he’s excited to have fans back in the stands at Littlestown, giving his team an atmosphere that it didn’t have a year ago.
“Normalcy, I think, is what everyone’s looking for,” he said. “I want to get that exciting environment that I remember from my time wrestling. I want to get crowds back in the gym and get people back into the program, because our guys deserve to have that experience.”