Leading most top high school sports programs are dedicated coaches.
But with 23 schools in the York-Adams League, and about 18 sports for each school, it’s unlikely there are 400 great coaches available each year. Sometimes for high school athletes, it’s about the luck of the draw.
No one understands the importance of coaching better than first-year Spring Grove wrestling head coach Tyke Conover.
“I was very blessed as a wrestler myself with the coaches I had,” he said.
Conover, who is taking over for Tony Miller as the Rockets' head coach, said he owes a lot to his previous coaches.
It starts with Ralph Kuhn, he said, who was Conover’s junior varsity coach at Hanover in the 1990s. Kuhn spent 40 years as Hanover’s JV coach under varsity coach Terry Conover, Tyke’s father, who coached the Nighthawks for nearly 40 years and is in the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Then at Pitt-Johnstown, Tyke Conover was coached by Pat Pecora, who has tallied 581 wins and is also a PWCA Hall of Famer.
As a coach, Tyke Conover has worked under his father at Hanover and most recently under Miller, who led the Rockets to 14 Division I titles and 14 state medalists in his 21 years at the helm.
“Those guys didn’t do it by themselves. They were the leaders and got the right people in the right places and directed the ship in the right direction,” Tyke Conover said. “I’m trying to emulate what I’ve been taught by them. I’ve been spoiled.”
Experienced coaching staff: Miller is stepping down this season to spend more time with his family, Spring Grove athletic director Greg Wagner said, though he will still be an assistant on staff, as will Terry Conover, who coached Miller at Hanover in the late 1980s. Spring Grove’s assistant coaches have about 60 years of head coaching experience and nearly 900 career wins.
“We’re all kind of from the same breed,” Tyke Conover said. “Tony ran a tremendous program. It’s an honor to fill his shoes. They’re big shoes to fill.”
Tyke Conover credits Miller for building Spring Grove’s program as a consistent District 3 contender. That led the Conovers to take an interest in being Miller’s assistants.
“It can be difficult with the local high school sports scene for how some schools struggle with coaches,” Tyke Conover said. “(Spring Grove’s) situation is kudos to Tony for running a good program. Me and my father wouldn’t be involved if Tony didn’t run a solid program.”
Wagner said the switch from Miller to Tyke Conover has been as easy as an AD could imagine.
“It is a very smooth transition to go from Tony to Tyke. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat,” Wagner said. “It’s one of the smoothest coaching transitions I’ve ever experienced in my 13 years on the job as an AD. Replacing someone who has been there for 20 years shouldn’t be as seamless as this is.”
2018-19 outlook: The Rockets, who have won 10 of the last 11 Division I crowns, lose a successful senior class that was headlined by the program’s all-time wins leader Dalton Rohrbaugh, who has 152 career wins and finished third in the state twice, once at 106 pounds and once at 126. Rohrbaugh is now wrestling at NCAA Division I Lock Haven.
Spring Grove (23-3 overall last season and 6-0 in Y-A D-I) will also look to replace Chase Bricker (39-6 last season), Trent Baker (91 career wins) and Jake Meyer (99 career wins).
“That was a tremendous senior class,” Tyke Conover said.
The Rockets, however, do bring back two Class 3-A state qualifiers in Anthony Hinson and Clay Baker. Hinson went 40-6 last season at 160 pounds and has a career 100-27 record, while Clay Baker went 34-7 at 132 and is 93-26 in his career.
“Anthony could’ve already been on the medal stand and same with Clay,” Tyke Conover said. “It’s about things falling into place and preparation. … We have some underclassmen who will ultimately be dark horses and will surprise people, too.”
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Division I: New Oxford (15-5, 5-1) graduated only five seniors, with Matthew Poust and Darrick Rudisill (state qualifier) being the main losses.
New Oxford hopes to challenge Spring Grove with Jared Bair and Timothy Uhler leading the way. Bair, a junior, went 31-13 last season at 132 pounds, while Uhler, also a junior, went 38-11 and qualified for the 3-A state tournament at 113.
Dallastown (15-5, 4-2) hopes experience can boost it into competition with Spring Grove. The Wildcats bring back all but two wrestlers from last season. Despite losing Dalton Daugherty (103 career wins) and Garrett Johnson, the Wildcats bring back seniors Raymond Christas (37-4 last season at 285), Jamal Brandon (36-7 at 220) and Jarrett Feeney (3-A state qualifier at 160).
Central York (9-8, 3-3) brings back possibly the top wrestler in the Y-A League in Michael Wolfgram, who is a West Virginia University commit. The heavyweight went 39-2 last season to finish fourth in the Class 3-A state tournament and boasts a career 103-16 record. The Panthers also bring back Brett Morgan, Mason Myers and Logan Paluch.
Red Lion (6-9, 2-4) returns its top wrestler, senior Cole Daugherty, who went 28-5 last season at 145/152. The Lions lost only one senior from a squad that had several freshmen and sophomores see varsity time.
South Western (10-10, 1-5) lost its second-best wrestler from last season in Cole Stremmel (23-10), but the Mustangs welcome back junior Ethan Baney, who went 38-9 last season and finished eighth in the 3-A state tournament at 160.
Gettysburg (14-5, 6-0 in D-II) will spend its first season in D-I after winning the D-II title last season. The Warriors lost four starters to graduation, including 3-A state qualifier Joseph Pecaitis (33-5 last season). They return junior Dylan Reinert, who is 68-13 in his career and is a two-time state qualifier, as well as sophomores Montana DeLawder and Nathan Ridgley.
Division II: Kennard-Dale (11-6, 5-1) will hope to replace Justin Camron-Miller, Daniel Eagle and 2-A state qualifier Tanner Harkins — three seniors who won 20-plus matches last season. The Rams’ top wrestlers are expected to be Daemon Davis (19-4 last season) and 2016-17 state qualifier Nick Bradley, who is returning from an injury.
Susquehannock (11-7, 3-3) lost Joey Romjue (29-3 last season), but Colby Romjue, Joey’s younger brother, is coming off back-to-back 20-plus win seasons and finished sixth in the region last year at 145 pounds.
Eastern York (14-9, 3-3) graduated Jahshim Snyder (34-4 last season) and Carl Carbaugh (25-6) among a six-wrestler senior class. The Golden Knights are expected to bring back freshman Zach Dice, who went 17-10 last season.
West York (5-10, 2-4) had only four wrestlers win more bouts than they lost last season. Among the four, Claudio Cruz (11-10) and Frank Veloce (11-4) are expected to return.
York Suburban (4-10, 1-5) returns its top three wrestlers in junior Dylan Leik (23-5 last season), senior Andrew Frey (18-7) and junior Nasier Gellispie (16-10).
Dover (3-13, 1-5) is tasked with replacing Matthew Rodriguez and Matthew Lehman, the Eagles' top two wrestlers last season.
Northeastern (3-14, 0-6 in D-I) will spend its first season in D-II after a last-place campaign in D-I last season. Despite the rough season, the Bobcats have two wrestlers returning with plus-.700 winning percentages in Tom Gradwell (25-9 last season) and Cole Wilson, who went 39-5 and finished fourth in the state 3-A tournament at 113 pounds.
Division III: Bermudian Springs (14-7, 6-0) had seven wrestlers top 20 wins last season, with two of them — Darren Beall (37-12 last season), who finished eighth in the 2-A state tournament at 152, and Landon West (23-10) — having graduated. The Eagles welcome back Chase Dull, the 2-A state runner-up at 195, Trenton Harder, Nate McCollum, Korey Smith and Hogan Swenski from a squad that won the D-III title last year.
Delone Catholic (9-8, 5-1) lost Ryan Hart (23-9 last season) to graduation, but the Squires bring back freshman Tate Neiderer (21-10).
Littlestown (7-10, 3-3) returns all five of its wrestlers with above .500 winning percentages last season, with two-time 2-A state eighth-place finisher Carl Harris headlining the group.
Biglerville (5-13, 3-3) hopes junior Blake Showers can lead them to an improved season. The 106-pounder went 37-5 last season and finished seventh in the 2-A state tournament.
Fairfield (5-5, 2-4) graduated Colton Shriner, who won 72 career matches, but the Green Knights welcome back sophomore Jacob Moyer, who went 18-12 a season ago.
Hanover (2-14, 1-4) only had one wrestler with a positive winning percentage a season ago. Senior Colton Angel went 13-12 at 120 pounds.
York Tech (6-10, 0-6) brings back junior 220-pounder Jacob Sharp, who went 16-11 last season.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.