As a freshman, York Suburban wrestler Noah Rice was elected a captain by his teammates.
The honor is rare for a first-year athlete, but Trojans head coach Brian Gentzyel said it exemplifies that Rice, who is 18-3 this season, is respected by his peers.
“It shows what they expect out of him and what they thought of him before we even wrestled our first match,” said the eighth-year head coach.
Rice, however, said being a captain isn’t just about himself. The 132-pounder represents an impressive freshman class that hopes to turn York Suburban into a York-Adams League Division II power.
“This year, we’re doing well,” Rice said. “In the upcoming years, we’re going to get stronger and better.”
Freshman class: Five of York Suburban’s top six wrestlers by winning percentage are freshmen. Rice splits his time between 132 and 138 and sports an 18-3 record with 10 pins. Zachary Emory is also 18-3 and has 14 pins at 113 pounds. Jamal Lewis (15-5) and Bryson Neidigh (16-5) have nine pins apiece at 170 and 120 pounds, respectively. Lastly, Dequese Dillon is 14-7 at 106 pounds, though nine of his victories are by forfeit.
The five freshmen are a combined 81-23 this season with 46 pins to lead the Trojans to an improved season. Suburban is 13-8 overall and 3-2 in D-II play following a 4-10, 1-5 campaign last season.
“I’ve known these kids since youth,” Gentzyel said. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I knew they’d be successful. But to the extent they are wrestling right now, for them to do this well, I will say I’m a little bit surprised.”
Bright future: Gentzyel said the youth injection doesn’t end with this year’s freshman class either.
“We have probably a dozen freshmen in the program right now,” Gentzyel. “Half of our kids are freshmen. We have six eighth graders, too, and 70 kids in our youth program, which is the most we’ve ever had. It’s coming.”
He hopes the success the freshmen are having will motivate the team and the community to keep improving.
“A lot of those freshmen do wrestle outside of the season, so they know what it takes,” Gentzyel said. “They understand what the leadership roles are. I don’t expect that to change next year. I expect that to get stronger.”
Helping bring the freshmen along, Gentzyel said, is Suburban’s lone senior, Andrew Frey, who is 14-7 with 10 pins this season at 220 pounds after an 18-7 junior campaign.
“His record isn’t as good as it was last year, but he only has one forfeit,” Gentzyel said. “He’s wrestling a lot of tough kids, as opposed to last year when we could pick and choose for him.”
Hayden Thoman and Dylan Leik are two other top wrestlers for Suburban. Thoman is 12-8 this season at heavyweight, while Leik, who went 23-5 last year and was injured earlier this season, is 7-3 at 126 pounds.
Breakdown of each freshman: Rice’s last loss was a 4-3 defeat on Dec. 15 against Middletown’s Ryan Berstler, who was a state qualifier last year in Class 2-A and has 102 career victories.
“He’s cool, calm and collected,” Gentzyel said. “He’s got a sound technique and is very rarely in a bad position. He hasn’t been pinned. I think he’s given up one set of back points all year, which is pretty rare for a freshman.”
Gentzyel said Rice and Emory are similar in how composed they are under pressure. Emory’s three losses are to three excellent opponents — Dover’s Mason Leiphart (22-1), Middletown’s Luke Fegley (22-1) and Mifflinburg’s Gabriel Gramly (23-3).
“Zach Emory is the same way as Noah,” Gentzyel said. “He was wrestling a kid against Newport and got caught on his back twice for stupid stuff. Most freshmen would lose their cool, but he kept plugging and pinned the kid.”
Gentzyel said both Lewis and Neidigh could be 18-3 like Emory and Rice, but a few close losses have prevented that.
“Jamal’s wrestling at 170 as a freshman and is pinning some seniors. For him to be doing this as a freshman at 170 is impressive,” Gentzyel said. “Bryson has wrestled some tough kids and beaten them. Sometimes you have kids who are good, but when they wrestle the tough kids, they won’t beat them. That’s not the case with these freshmen.”
Dillon is 5-7 this season in bouts not counting his forfeits, but Gentzyel said that is partly due to him wrestling at 113 for parts of the season instead of 106.
“He’s plugging in there,” Gentzyel said. “He isn’t doing as well as the others, but he is up at a higher weight than he belonged at 113. He’s wrestled some tough competition at 106, too.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at email@example.com.