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Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division II Wrestling Preview

This league, maybe more so than any other, has experienced the pain of declining numbers and school enrollments that plague Upstate New York as a whole. However still, the people of the Southern Tier in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties continue to uphold the wrestling traditions in their communities in spite of the adversity, keeping the fire of the sport alive.

Before the season begins Portville already stands out from the rest as the banner keeper for the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association (CCAA) Division II league. The Panthers have to be the favorite to repeat after a strong 2018-2019 squad earned the highest seed (#4) of any CCAA Div. II team in the three years of the Section VI Duals.

Portville Panthers

Head coach: Matt Milne

2018-2019 results: 6-0 league, 18-4 overall, CCAA II league champion, #7 WNY Athletics final small school ranking

Key returners: Dakota Mascho, Roland Thompson, Mario Pascucci, Chase Wenke, Joe Long, Kirkland Hall, Lucas Smith, Miska Young, Jayden Lassiter, Jarod Zenner

To call the Panthers a ‘pleasant surprise’ in 2018-2019 doesn’t do the hard work of the Portville wrestling community justice. However, the return of a strong Panthers team that only two years ago finished 2-4 in the league was both exciting and encouraging to see. The 2018-19 Panthers captured the CCAA II title for the first time in a decade and earned the #4 seed for the Section VI Duals. Maybe the most exciting prospect of last year was what was yet to come this year as Coach Milne’s squad graduated zero seniors while earning another year of experience for the nearly two dozen wrestlers that were between 7th and 10th grades. The Panthers placed ten wrestlers at the Class C/D tournament with only three of them being seniors this year. Perhaps one of the best 1-2 punches in the Section return in sophomore Dakota Mascho and senior Roland Thompson. Mascho and Thompson usually went 152 and 160, respectively, causing a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams. Both of them placed 3rd in their weights at the state qualifier as well and are Section VI champion hopefuls at any weight they compete at this winter. Portville has to be the favorite to repeat in CCAA II and could very well cause problems at the Duals and in the Class C/D tournament later this season.

Maple Grove Red Dragons

Head coach: Mark Hetrick

2018-2019 results: 5-1 league, 11-10 overall, CCAA II 2nd place

Key losses: Taige Jones, Alex Duncanson

Key returners: Luke Tomlinson, Jake Tomlinson, Lucas Baer, Matt Trim, Corey Hall, Kyle Trim

The always tough Red Dragons had another strong showing in 2018-2019. A couple of forfeits in each dual hurt them for sure, however a handful of strong postseason performances was an encouraging sign heading into this season for the Section’s smallest independently wrestling school team. Senior Jake Tomlinson earned a runner-up finish at the state qualifier last season while brother Luke Tomlinson won right around forty matches and earned a 3rd place finish at the qualifier. Both were Class C/D champions as well. Besides the Tomlinson’s the Dragons should return a core group of four more wrestlers who placed in the class. If numbers are a problem again this winter a very attainable goal would be to finish top two in the league again and make a run at a Duals invite.

Franklinville Panthers

Head coach: Scott Palmatier

2018-2019 results: 4-2 league, 9-9 overall, CCAA II 3rd place

Key returners: Nolan Palmatier, Cleon Lawton, Kyle Wittenrich, Tyler Learn

A merger between Franklinville, Ellicottville, and Cuba-Rushford kept the Panthers consistent in 2018-2019 with the previous two seasons in which the team finished 5-1 and 4-2 in league, respectively. However, Ellicottville is no longer part of the trio. Last season’s dual slate was rife with extremely tight scores usually decided by one, maybe two bouts, making pins and bodies to fill the weight classes the most important ingredient for success among the smallest schools in the Section. Luckily for the Panthers, their core group of four seniors who all placed in Class C/D return this winter. Cleon Lawton returns as the highest placing wrestler as a class champion and Section VI finalist in 2019. Kyle Wittenrich also returns with a class and state qualifier placement. Nolan Palmatier returns with a class place finish and should be the first Franklinville grappler since 1996 to achieve 100 career wins this winter. Also, keep an eye out for talented 8th grader Ethan Coleman who will compete in the lower weights. Another competitive season for this team should be on the horizon and perhaps it could even end with an individual champion.

Randolph Cardinals

Head coach: Todd Conley

2018-2019 results: 3-3 league, 5-9 overall, CCAA II 4th place

Key losses: Jacob Zachar, Mason Pagett

Key returners: Dylan Muntz

The winners of three straight league titles and years undefeated in the league (2015-2018) took a step back last season after a few strong years that saw them qualify for the Section VI Duals two years ago. Unfortunately, forfeits hit the Cardinals hard in 2018-2019, something that this program will be looking to fix in order to get back into the league title picture. Only three Cardinals placed in Class C/D, two of whom placed in the state qualifier but graduated. Junior Dylan Muntz is the highest returning class place winner. A small group of 7th graders to sophomores that were on the roster last season may be the next wave of a strong Randolph wrestling squad.

Frewsburg Bears

Head coach: Steve Raymond

2018-2019 results: 2-4 league, 2-4 overall, CCAA II 5th place

Key losses: Nick Marsh, Ben Gibson, Ian Connor

Key returners: Jaiden Slagle

The Bears did something in 2018-2019 that hadn’t been done since 2012-2013: multiple league wins in the same season. For a program that had great success for a number of years, the struggles with numbers at Frewsburg certainly haven’t been due to a lack of trying as the school is the second smallest un-combined team (only after Maple Grove) in the Section. A trio of seniors paced the Bears last year with Nick Marsh finishing 5th in Section VI. Senior Jaiden Slagle placed 3rd in Class C/D and should be back to lead a squad that was heavy with sophomores. Another couple of league wins in 2019-2020 would serve as a nice benchmark to see how this team and program are keeping the tradition alive.

Salamanca Warriors

Head coach: Keith Jones

2018-2019 results: 1-5 league, 2-13 overall, CCAA II 6th place

Key returners: Trevor Ellis

Like all program rehabilitations, it takes time. However, under Keith Jones Salamanca can be sure that his experience and passion for wrestling will lead them in the right direction. A good sign of that is always when a coach takes a squad that is overmatched into reasonably tougher competition to challenge the wrestlers, like what they did in 2018-2019. Junior Trevor Ellis was a beneficiary of Jones’s effort placing 5th in Class C/D and 6th in Section VI. Perhaps Ellis could be a nice piece to build around with two more seasons before graduation coming up.

Cattaraugus-Little Valley Timberwolves

Head coach: Rex Brown

2018-2019 results: 0-6 league, 0-6 overall, CCAA II 7th place

Key losses: Sam Grey

Key returners: Brandon Hughes

The T-Wolves lost their top wrestler to graduation and will have to overcome both that and low numbers moving forward. A few inexperienced wrestlers did however gain quality mat time last season both at various JV tournaments and quality varsity events throughout the Southern Tier. Junior Brandon Hughes returns with a Class C/D place finish as the only postseason placer returning to this roster. Besides Grey, there were no other seniors, only one junior, and then eight sophomores or less on this roster a season ago, perhaps a promising sign for the future should they all return again this season.

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