After suffering through a 1-15 season as Pittston Area head coach in the 2016-17 season, James Woodall sees hope for the Patriots as they try to turn the program around moving forward.
The Patriots struggled with declining numbers during a season in which they finished last of seven teams in Division 1 of the Wyoming Valley Conference and last of 12 teams in the District 2 Class 3A Tournament.
The return of the top two wrestlers, bringing two athletes back into the program for their senior seasons and the promotion of three promising freshmen are just some of the reasons for Woodall’s optimism.
“We have the nucleus,” Woodall said. “We have some great kids in the room who are going to feed off each other.
“There will probably be 20 in the room. You need about that. Last year, we’d have five or six in the room. Things are looking brighter.”
Senior Brandon Lopez, who was 18-7, and Ryan Lombardo, who was 14-11, had the team’s best two records last season. Lombardo finished fourth in the district at 120 pounds.
Nathan Lombardo, who saw limited regular-season action but finished sixth in the district the last two seasons at 220, is also back for his senior year.
Preston Oleski is another experienced senior. Lucas Baritsky could help the team if he is cleared medically.
Jake Rutkowski and Rich Wallace, coming off starting roles on the school’s first winning football team in nine years, are returning to the program after last wrestling part-time two years ago. Rutkowski will be at 285 pounds.
There are multiple promotions from the junior high program, highlighted by Keith Romanczuk (115), Anthony Thomas (120) and C.J. DeMark (138), who are expected to be on the varsity as freshmen rather than remaining in the junior high program.
“Those three freshmen are all in the same boat,” Woodall said. “They’re worthy of being pulled up as freshmen.
“They had some success and they worked hard all summer. I see a very bright future for those guys.”
Sophomores A.J. Gorto, Nate Ridgley and Nick Ridgley have a shot to break into the lineup.
Freshman John Chacko and D.J. Darbenzio are others who could be factors.
The Patriots open WVC Division 1 action Dec. 13 at Dallas.
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