Young Redbirds proving mettle on the mats

Allentown posts big win over rival New Egypt


Staff Writer

PHOTOS BY MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Above, Allentown’s Derik Bachman looks to pin Princeton’s Toru Kato during a recent 135-pound match in Allentown. At left, Bachman’s  brother, Kyle, works over Sebastian Bravo during a 130-pound match.PHOTOS BY MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Above, Allentown’s Derik Bachman looks to pin Princeton’s Toru Kato during a recent 135-pound match in Allentown. At left, Bachman’s brother, Kyle, works over Sebastian Bravo during a 130-pound match. Don’t look now, but the Allentown High School wrestling team is flirting with a .500 season.

The Redbirds, despite an overall lack of varsity experience up and down the line-up, have managed to post a 4-3 record thus far, and are coming off a pair of inspiring wins on Saturday over Keyport and rival New Egypt.

“Beating New Egypt was big for us,” said second-year head coach Bob Mussari. “They beat us something like 50-12 last year, so it shows how much we’ve improved. And to beat Keyport is great because the Shore is known for its wrestling.”

This year’s Allentown squad features just two seniors and two juniors, and a host of sophomores and freshmen, but has managed to be competitive despite a schedule which usually eats the Redbirds alive.

“We lost 48-30 to Nottingham, 48-22 to Steinert — these are teams that pretty much man-handled us last year,” Mussari said. “Our goals from the beginning have been to be competitive and improve with each match. So far, we’ve been able to do that, so yes, I’m very pleased.”

This year’s starting line-up is a testament to just how young the Redbirds are as a group.

Mussari is forced to forfeit at 103 each match, but features sophomore Mike Ferro and freshman P.J. Oliver at 112, where both have wrestled to around .500 records thus far.

Sophomore Pat Pape is at 119, where Mussari said he has performed very well in some tough matches.

“Against New Egypt he really came through for us,” the coach said. “We needed him not to get pinned against a very strong wrestler, and he kept the kid on the mat for two minutes. He did a great job, and it was big because we only won 40-39.”

Junior Sean Mulligan is off to a good start at 125, where he is 9-4, while sophomore brothers Kyle and Derrick Bachman are at 130 and 135, respectively.

“They’re both doing very well thus far,” the coach said. “Derrick is 10-3.”

Freshman John Butera and sophomore Joe Kaplow share time at 140, where Butera is 6-3 and Kaplow is 4-2.

“Both of those guys have been very nice surprises for us,” Mussari said.

Junior Matt Zalnoski is wrestling to about a .500 record in what Mussari described as a “very tough weight class” in the Colonial Valley Conference.

Much of the Redbirds’ leadership comes from senior Nick Pape, the 152-pounder, while sophomore John Mumpower is at 160.

Another sophomore, James McCormack, holds down the 171 slot, while senior Evan Tiel and sophomore Eugene Zyglowski are at 189.

This is Tiel’s first year wrestling, and Mussari said he’s making quite an impression.

“It’s been a great debut for Evan,” the coach said. “He played football for me, and I guess he enjoyed it so he came out for wrestling and has really done well.”

A pair of freshman, C.J. Nafus and Drew Muscante, take turns flopping between 215 and heavyweight for the Redbirds, whose program seems to be budding under the second-year coach.

“Our numbers doubled from last year, which is great,” Mussari said. “Last year, in my first year, I said I wanted to build the program, and it seems like that’s what’s happening.

“Over the summer, we opened the gym up in July for the kids, and a lot of them got their first taste of high school wrestling and enjoyed it,” he added. “And coming off a year where we won just two matches, to have already won four is really great for us.”

The Redbirds face some tough challenges this week, as they traveled to Ewing yesterday, and will travel to Lawrence on Saturday for a tri-meet with the host Cardinals and Hamilton West.

And despite the early-season success, Mussari is stressing that his young wrestlers keep this season in perspective.

“The kids would love to get to the state playoffs, but it’s going to be very tough,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of tough matches coming up.”

In order to qualify for the state tournament, teams must have at least a .500 record at the end of the day on Feb. 5. Based on their schedule, it may be a longshot for the Redbirds. Just don’t expect them to roll over.

“It’s a long way up, but the kids are working very hard, and I keep telling them that’s how we’re going to get there,” Mussari said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the program on Saturday, and that kind of thing tends to spread.

“We’re right where we want to be.”