New coach, same goals for Kennard-Dale wrestling

Patrick Strohecker, 505-5402/@P_Strohecker
  • Tad Harbert is entering his first year as head coach of the Kennard-Dale wrestling program.
  • Harbert spent the last 15 years coaching at Greater Latrobe High School, guiding the team to a state runner-up finish in 2014.
  • The Rams are coming off a 12-6 year in 2015-16 and are the two-time reigning Y-A Division II champions.

Two-time reigning York-Adams League Division II wrestling champion Kennard-Dale has a new face leading its program this season.

New Kennard-Dale head wrestling coach Tad Harbert.

That won't change the goals of the team, however.

Tad Harbert is taking over the Rams this season, replacing longtime coach Mike Balestrini. Harbert comes from the Pittsburgh area, where he coached the Greater Latrobe High School wrestling team for the past 15 seasons, serving as head coach for the last four.

Harbert arrived in York County at the beginning of the school year when his wife took a teaching position at Dallastown. He was hired at K-D when he saw the coaching position was open and has been working with the wrestlers on the team for the past couple of months.

"We've had open room the past two months, so I've had a chance to meet most of the crew," Harbert said during winter sports media day. "...We've got some good talent in the room. The guys are working hard in the room as we begin the new season."

Harbert isn't coming into the Rams' job blind, either. He knows about the past success that K-D had under Balestrini, including the remarkable four-year run by Chance Marsteller that saw him go 166-0 and earn four PIAA state titles from 2011-14.

During the Marsteller years, however, the Rams weren't very good as a team. What Harbert is walking into with the Rams now is a much different situation. There hasn't been that next phenom at K-D since Marsteller, but the team as a whole has improved, claiming back-to-back Division II crowns.

Not only will Harbert inherit the recent success of the program, but he's also taking over a team that went 12-6 overall last year and only lost one wrestler from that squad, albeit the team's only state qualifier in Michael Bracey.

"We're only losing one guy and we were only giving up one or two forfeits last year," senior Austin McNamee said during media day. "We're already only maybe giving up one this year, so I think we'll be fine."

Kennard Dale's Austin McNamee, top, wrestles West York's Daniel Myers in the 195-pound bout last season. McNamee is one of several returning wrestlers for the Rams this season.

If there is any concern for Harbert right now, it's the relatively smaller size of the school. Coming from Greater Latrobe, which was the PIAA Class 3-A state runner-up in 2014, there was never a numbers issue and the team could always fill all 14 weight classes,

Harbert now enters a situation where he might have some lineup juggling to do, especially at the lower weights. He expects the team to have more than 20 wrestlers on the team this season, but right now doesn't know if he has anyone to wrestle at 106 pounds, the lowest weight class in varsity wrestling.

Once the Rams get past the lower weights and into the middle and upper weights, however, that's where Harbert thinks this year's squad will really shine.

"Our strength is our middleweights," he said. "At 113 we'll have Damon Davis, who was a 20-match winner at 106 last year, and at heavyweight will be Tanner Harkins, who had a .500 record last year. So, even at some of those other weight classes, we're going to be pretty solid. So, if we can get bonus points and not give up bonus points, that'll be huge once again for us."

The team goal is still the same, and it's to make it a three-peat as Division II champions. Individually, the goals are growing, with McNamee hoping to replace Bracey as a state qualifier. There are several others with serious chances to do well at the district level.

It's safe to say that, with the majority of its lineup returning from last year, Division II supremacy still looks to go through Kennard-Dale. 

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at