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Northern Tier Sports Report
While all eyes are on Canton - last year’s NTL champions - Wyalusing is waiting in the wings.

They’ve been pleasantly surprised by their numbers - coach Mike Earle has actually seen new wrestlers come out this year - and that’s driven his hopes for this season.

“Canton is the leader going in because they had a lot of guys returning, but we’re looking at our line-up right now and I feel like we’re really, really solid,” said Earle. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to get that league title back.”

Nobody’s been dominant the past few seasons - two years ago the Rams tied Troy and Athens for the NTL title while it was Towanda coming away with the North Section Championship.

“Our league has been super competitive,” Earle said. “Everybody’s really close with two or three different teams, and, maybe even this year with four or five different teams.”

They edged Athens (40-37) last year but lost to Canton (45-30) and Towanda (44-28) in the duals, so they know they have work to do.

One of those wrestlers working on his moves right now is Nick Woodruff, one of Wyalusing two returning North Section champions this year, along with Colbrin Nolan.

“I’m just improving my pace,” he said. “Going harder and harder in the room to try and get my conditioning up. It’s going to be tougher with these masks but I’m just trying to get in as good a shape as I can.”

Another strategy he’s focused on this year has been adding strength.

“This off-season I put on weight,” he said, noting that he’s eyeing 152-pounds for his weight. “I’m feeling a lot healthier and I’m not cutting as much.”

After coming up short in districts the past two seasons he’s hoping better stamina and a stronger body will unlock the door past Williamsport.

“I want to make it to Hershey this year,” he said. “I haven’t had the greatest showing at districts the last couple of years, so I just want to get past that.”

Earle is high on Woodruff this season.

“He’s done a lot of wrestling,” said Earle. “He’s always been right there and he’s always had a tough time making that step from districts to the next level. From what I’ve seen, where he is this year compared to last year, I think that’s definitely a goal of his. He’s one I’m expecting to make a big jump.”

Another wrestler Earle is high on is senior Zack Shaffer, who is excited for his senior year.

“I want to do my best for my last year,” he said.

He’s excited about their numbers this season - “it makes me happy to get our program going and keep our numbers” - and believes they can put together a strong season as a team.

“I think we’re going to do real great,” said Shaffer. “We have a lot of great kids coming up and quite a few returners.”

Shaffer wrestled at 182 a year ago and might be one of those wrestlers caught between weights when the PIAA shifted them around. There is now a big jump from 189 to 215 and a lot of wrestlers may be caught in between.

“It’s more difficult but it’s nothing you can’t do,” he said.

He’s been doing it all this off season - lifting, hand fighting, motion - as he knows the extra week of the post season means a tougher road to Hershey.

“It’s going to be a lot harder to get to states this year,” he said. “More competition.”

Earle is looking for Shaffer to take the next step as well, and, along with Nolan, Woodruff, Hunter Manahan and Skyler Manahan, is one to watch.

“He’s put in his dues and he’s really been right there as well,” said the coach. “I think he’s going to be another one who has a lot of improvement from last year.”

However, Earle is high on all his kids. He knows if they’re willing to wrestle in masks they’re willing to do what it takes to get better.

“I think we have a lot of kids in that same boat that could be standouts, not just those guys,” said Earle. 

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