RSSCategory: Columns/Features

Follow Up to Mifflin County Recruiting Story

| October 9, 2013 | 2 Comments

I wanted to touch base with everyone about the column I wrote a few days ago.

First off, I wanted to apologize publicly to the Milliken and Wert families.  Sometimes when you take a few days away from something you wrote and then re-visit it, you see things in a different light.

I did with this column and I’d like to address those.

Number one, some of my comments were attacking and insensitive to both boys. I regret that. I’m passionate about this sport, but sometimes passion can get in the way of clarity, reason and common sense. I never met to cause them any distress.

I wish nothing but the best of luck to both boys, not only in wrestling but everything they do in life. I cheered for Buck Dippery at Central Dauphin and I will do the same for Quentin and Andrew at Trinity.  I just wish they would be wearing purple and silver, that’s all.

Number two, I spoke (through email) with Don Milliken last night and I appreciate his candor and honesty with me. He told me things that really were none of my business and I respect him for that. I promised him I wouldn’t discuss what was said during our correspondence and I will abide by his wishes.

I will say this. The job he was offered is legitimate and I don’t blame him for taking it. Any of us would. He’s a decent human being.

What I won’t apologize for is the real reasons I wrote the piece – the blatant recruiting going on in high school wrestling (and all sports for that matter) and to tell the doubters that Mifflin County will still be a solid team, despite the losses.

One thing Don and I do disagree on is Chris Bentley. I still believe, from what I’ve heard from my sources, that he is using the Renegade Force Club to recruit and I will continue to call him out on it.

In closing, once again, I wish both families nothing but good will and best of luck in all their future endeavors.

Thanks for reading.

Carson’s Corner: Don’t Worry Folks, Mifflin County Wrestling is Alive and Well

| October 6, 2013 | 10 Comments

MugI wasn’t going to comment about the transfers of Quentin Milliken and Andrew Wert, two up-and-coming freshmen, from Mifflin County to Trinity (District 3) High School until the cat came out of the bag recently on the District 6 Wrestling Forum.

Don Milliken, father of Quentin, said on the forum, “I’m not sure who will be where @ MC. A lot has happened since the week before school started.  I was offered a great opportunity and our family will be relocating to the Camp Hill /Mechanicsburg area. Since we are in the process of selling & buying a home, Q is cyber schooling this year in the 8th grade. Wert is following the same path. They are focused on becoming scholar athletes, not dumb jocks (thank you Ken Chertow).”

Hello. Scholar athletes? Are you kidding me?

Look, the parents of Milliken and Wert have every right to take their kids wherever they want them to go, but don’t insult our intelligence by saying the move was for academic reasons.

If that’s the case, why are Quentin and Andrew cyber-schooling as eighth graders when they should be going into ninth at Mifflin County?

I’ll tell you why in one word – redshirt.

It’s a practice all-too common in high school wrestling but it doesn’t make it right. Redshirting in college I understand. The maturity level of a true freshman and a fifth-year senior is like night and day. Most kids aren’t ready to jump into athletics and academics their first-year of college.

Maybe it’s just me, but deliberately holding a kid back doesn’t sound like you’re focusing on their academics. The move happened so when Quentin and Andrew get to Trinity next season, they will have four years of eligibility when it should only be three. Sounds like an athletic move to me.

This brings us to Chris Bentley, head coach of Trinity and the Renegade Force wrestling club. Quentin and Andrew wrestle for Renegade Force and he obviously is a good recruiter because they all are drinking the Shamrock Kool-Aid.

And make no mistake; recruiting is exactly what he did to entice both boys to come to a school that was 0-12 last season. How could it be otherwise?

I have a serious beef with high school coaches who run summer wrestling clubs because of what just happened here. I don’t want to sound like our socialist president but high school coaches shouldn’t be running their own clubs. Most will use it for what Mr. Bentley is doing now.

Let’s look at this from an athletics standpoint. How are Quentin and Andrew going to be better off at Trinity?

The Shamrocks have never been a wrestling power…they are a basketball school. Coach Bentley obviously can’t win with home-grown talent (let me repeat, they were 0-12 last year), so who are Quentin and Andrew going to have in the wrestling room to make them better?

Answer: No one. Unless he brings in more recruits.

The Huskies are the power team right now in District 6 and are close to making the jump to becoming a regional and hopefully, a state power. Methinks Quentin and Andrew would have better competition in the Mifflin County wrestling room than Trinity. Competition makes you better. Without competition there’s no barometer to gauge what you have to do to improve yourself.

Unfortunately, like a lot of coaches these days, Mr. Bentley will try and mooch off the hard work of others and recruit his lineup, just so he can pile up the W’s and be credited with changing the fortunes of the unlucky Shamrocks.

Make no mistake, the coaching these kids received in Mifflin County was high level stuff, despite what the nameless idiot, who keeps emailing me about how great Renegade is, thinks.

The junior high coaches – Bill and Justin Shafranich, Mark Cavanaugh and Dave Wray – are the best in the state and have been voted so by their peers. The varsity coaches get what the elementary and junior high coaches molded and polish it up.

Which brings me to my third and final point. This one bothers me the most. I have people, too many in my opinion, texting me or calling me and saying Mifflin County could have been dominate this season, but now they aren’t so sure.

The loss of Milliken and Wert, plus the ACL injury to Brandon Wilson, does weaken the Huskies some but by no means are they about to fall off the wrestling map.

No offense to Quentin and Andrew, but Mifflin County didn’t lose Chance Marsteller or Thomas Haines. They are, or would have been, freshman and there are no guarantees in wrestling. Success at the PAJW states doesn’t necessarily translate into high school success – just ask Sam Brownlee (4x champ), John Ferens (5x champ) or Nico Cortese (8 x champ) if it does. None of them lived up to their reputations or expectations.

Those who tell me the Huskies are in trouble must have forgotten we still have Hayden Hidlay, Ike Underhill, Kyle Kahley, Noah Stewart, and Wilson when he comes back. Youngsters like Noah Meyers, Trey Hartsock, Mike Bielski and Kyle Smith are on the way with more coming through the pipeline at the elementary level.

Hidlay had a monster summer season, placing second at the Cadet Nationals in both Freestyle and Greco; Kahley is a returning state qualifier, and Stewart and Wilson are defending District 6 champions, who were one win away from states. The cupboard is far from bear. The only real question marks are at 106 and 285. The rest of the lineup is solid.

I do believe Quentin and Andrew will be successful and I wish them all the best.  I hope they win multiple state titles. I really do. They are good kids. I like Don Milliken. He seems like a nice guy, but I feel it’s a mistake to leave Mifflin County right when there is a wrestling renaissance happening.

In closing, there is an old saying that goes like this, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” However, in real life, most of the time, it isn’t.

Thanks for reading.


Carson’s Corner: Mifflin County Far From Disappointing at Regionals

| March 4, 2013 | 0 Comments


Sometimes you have to lose in order to learn how to win.

That’s a hard lesson a green Mifflin County squad had to learn this past weekend. The speed, experience and mental toughness required at this level are very high. The Huskies are close to the mountaintop, but not quite there just yet.

You don’t get the whole feast in the first course. And make no mistake; this was the first course for Mifflin County with many more enjoyable delicacies to come.

It takes time to build champions and a championship team. The Huskies are close, there’s no debate about that.

What disturbed me the most after getting back from Altoona was not the fact only two, Hayden Hidlay (113) and Kyle Kahley (220) were moving on, but the word I kept hearing fellow Mifflin Countians saying to me repeatedly got under my skin.

The word…disappointing.

How in all that’s holy can you call the Huskies performance disappointing?

But here I was running into people around town and the word kept popping out of their mouths.


Obviously, they weren’t in Altoona watching the regionals because the performance Mifflin County put on was far from disappointing.

Yes, the Huskies were 1-for-5 in the third-place matches with the winner moving on to Hershey, but don’t forget that one participant was a freshman (Brandon Wilson at 145) and one a sophomore (Isaac Underhill at 120).  Add in Noah Stewart at 126, another freshman one win away from wrestling for third, and you know they’ll be back more motivated, and more importantly, more experienced than ever.

The Huskies finished fourth in the team standings with 89 points, behind only General McLane, Erie McDowell and DuBois. Three teams who’s kids have much more wrestling under their belts than the Mifflin County boys do.

Lucas Besch (132), Kevin Bair (138), Joe Knarr (152) and Caleb Rhodes (285) saw their high school careers come to an end, but they went out giving everything they had and more. In the end, that’s all you can ask for.

Knarr wrestled his guts out. It was the best I’ve ever seen from him. Chad Reese is a defensive, counter wrestler who’s frustrating to compete against. Most of the time he waits for you to shoot and counters, sprawls or uses his long reach to underhook and slow things down. He’s also a very good mat wrestler. Joe was in deep on him so many times I stopped counting, he just couldn’t finish it off.

Was his performance disappointing? No way and if you think so, you don’t know wrestling.

Besch had the misfortune of being in arguably the toughest weight in the region.  The 132-pound class was the only one with three kids ranked in the top 10 in the state with Erie McDowell’s Nick Gibson, Clearfield’s Christian Stone and Altoona’s D.J. Hollingshead. Besch, like all the other Husky grapplers, wrestled his heart out.

Was his performance disappointing? I don’t think so.

At this level anything can happen, just ask Erie Prep’s John Ciotti, Allderdice’s Ian DiSilvio and Bellefonte’s Garrett Poorman. All were state qualifiers a year ago who didn’t make it back this year,

Oh by the way, who eliminated Ciotti?

Underhill did.

Was his performance disappointing? Not a chance.

All the Mifflin County kids gave it their all. You couldn’t say that with some other county teams in the past, but you can in this situation. They have no reason to hang their heads.

Head coach Kirby Martin summed his team up nicely after regionals.

“I thought we actually overall wrestled better than we were predicted to. We had a lot of kids with almost double-digit losses coming in here and they performed very well. The third-place matches were bittersweet because having five kids with only one win away from states and only coming out with one, that’s a hard round to swallow

“There was some nerves, but at this level, with the speed and the mental toughness here at regionals is something you need experience and the fire for the tournament trail. Again, I felt like we wrestled well. I think our kids wrestled better than most would have expected because we were so green coming into this tournament. I’m very, very happy with the overall outcome, but the third-place matches will sit with everybody for awhile.”

As well they should.

Sit on those matches and stew. Come back next year and use it as fuel to drive the team to even greater heights.

Individual personality and team chemistry are bound together. The guys in the Husky wrestling room have great personalities and root each other on. The chemistry is evident and when you have that, success isn’t very far behind.

The future is very bright for Mifflin County. With solid coaching, a good group of kids returning and strength coming up from the junior high, the Huskies will be basking in the glow of even greater accomplishment next season.

And that is far from disappointing.