Husky Junior High Moving Up to Elite Status

| February 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

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 (Editors note: For some reason the photos are showing up with an error sign but you can see the photos despite the error messages. Click on SL for the slideshow or FS for full screen viewing. The I up top is to read the captions on the pictures).


Great high school wrestling programs come about thanks to strong elementary and junior high feeder systems.

From Clearfield in the 40s to North Allegheny in the 80s to Central Dauphin and Canon McMillan today, all forged long-lasting success thanks to the quality wrestlers coming up from the junior high ranks.

It’s no coincidence Mifflin County made the PIAA Duals for the first time. The reasons are simple, quality coaching, an elite junior high program and solid teaching at the elementary level.

The Husky junior high squad has quietly become a powerhouse over the last two seasons, thanks to the efforts of head coach Bill Shafranich and capable assistants Justin Shafranich, Mark Cavanaugh and Dave Wray.

In that span, Mifflin County has a 39-3 mark, including a 19-1 record this season. The only loss came at the hands of Nazareth by a 51-41 score at the Clearfield Duals in December.

“The reason for our success is the experience of the kids.  A lot of them are going and wrestling at the various clubs around the area,” Bill Shafranich said. “I think we can maintain our success. I’ve been preaching to do the extra, to do these clubs for a while now. We have kids going down to Bucknell, Ken Chertow’s and Renegade. In order to be one of the elite the kids have to do the extra it takes to get there. You have to put in the work.”

The rest of the staff echoed those sentiments.

“There’s a large group of kids who have wrestled since elementary and they’ve had success coming up through so we knew what we were getting,” Cavanaugh said. “It’s sort of like managing a team. We knew what we were getting we just had to make sure we were keeping them on track.  We had a solid 10 kids who have a ton of success wrestling and that just rubbed off on the other kids.”

“We have a lot of experienced kids and that helps a lot. We are losing a lot of that experience but I believe the kids coming up will be able to do well. It all depends how hard they’re willing to work,” said Wray.

Freshmen Hayden Hidlay, Noah Stewart and Brandon Wilson, are major contributors at the varsity level. Waiting in the wings is a stellar class of kids who will be up with the big boys next season. Kids like Andrew Wert and Quentin Milliken, both PAJW champions, along with Noah Myers, Trey Hartsock and Kyle Smith to name a few.

The Mifflin County varsity will be very deep next season. An enviable position to be in for sure. And as the saying goes, success breeds success.

“You need to have a core group of kids who do it all year round, like I said, because it rubs off on the other kids,” Cavanaugh replied. “If you only have one or two kids that wrestle all year round it doesn’t transfer to the other kids as well. We have kids that play other sports and that’s great but wrestling all-year round makes you better.”

The coaches are committed to making the Husky junior high one of the best in the state and to be the best it starts with not only proper technique, but superb conditioning as well.

“The Central Dauphin coach told me it’s been years since somebody made them look tired. We made them look tired and I’m proud of that,” said Shafranich.  “We constantly stress conditioning because if you keep pressuring your opponent, if you stay on the offensive, good things will happen.”

“Right now I think the boys are starting to understand what it takes to win,” Wray added. “They are getting more technically sound and we have a group of kids who work hard on their technique and on their conditioning.

“We like to teach aggressiveness and we work on chain wrestling and their technique to maximize what they’re doing. It takes about half a year to get the new guys, especially the seventh graders, into better position, better technique and once they start getting that, success picks up. Once success picks up their desire to practice increases. It’s easier to practice when your winning.”

They also agree on a simple coaching philosophy – keep it simple, stick with the basics.

“My philosophy of coaching wrestling is to keep it very basic. Like college finals. It’s going to be a sprawl, a single leg, a double leg, keep the guy down on the mat. It’s not going to be anything fancy,” Cavanaugh remarked. “If you want to learn those other moves there are plenty of clubs around. Keep it simple. Matches are won on the highest levels with singles and doubles and solid defense.”

“The coaching staff’s basic philosophy is to spend more times on less things. That may sound counterproductive but we wanted them to learn one or two things. We wanted them to focus,” Wray said.  “Get them on a couple things on top, a couple things on the bottom and a couple things from the neutral position and that’s what we work on. We work on technique and positioning, basic singles and doubles. We were complimented down at Central Dauphin how slick we were on our feet, but all we do is the basics.”

“My philosophy that I keep trying to get across is to stay intense. If they watch Iowa and Penn State, they stay intense. If you put the guy in defensive mode and keep up the offense, you’re going to win 90 percent of your matches,” Shafranich said.

What helps the junior high most of all is getting solid kids coming up through the elementary ranks. The pipeline needs to keep flowing if Mifflin County wrestling wants to keep on winning.

“The elementary programs are doing a great job of getting these kids prepared,” Wray responded. “They are coming in with great fundamentals and basically all we’re doing is refining them and accentuating the technique and getting it down. Elementary has to do a lot more teaching.”

Still, credit has to go to the staff Bill Shafranich has put together. You don’t win 39-of-42 duals without solid coaching.

“I think we have a pretty good staff,” said Shafranich.  “Mark and I are the vocal ones and Justin does the technique work because he’s still young enough to show it. Dave Wray does a lot of the paperwork and keeps us in order. I think we all complement each other nicely.”

The one big question remaining is can the Husky junior high maintain this high level of success on a consistent basis?

“I don’t want to say it’s a peak year, but every team has its ups and downs. We want to maintain at a high level,” Cavanaugh said. “We were 21-2 last year and we want to improve on that. Our goal is to re-load every year instead of having up and down years. We want to keep plugging in experienced kids year after year.

“You’re going to have years where you’ll drop off a bit, but we have really good elementary programs in the area and with the amount of clubs around, there are so many resources for these kids to be successful. The success of the junior high and varsity will get more kids out for elementary and keep the success going. I think it will maintain at a high level.”

Shafranich believes the winning can and will continue.

“I think we can be as good next year. We have good sixth graders coming up and good upper weights. I think we can maintain our success,” he said. “Winning helps as well. If we keep winning and the high school keeps winning that will bring more kids out. But it all comes down to the individual kid and how hard he’s willing to work. Wrestling is a sport you have to really work at to be successful.”


Category: Youth Wrestling

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