Big mat attack
Golden Tornado wrestling turning into a juggernaut
Eagle Sports Editor
BUTLER TWP — The Butler High wrestling team broke the program record for dual wins in a season in each of the last two years.
Despite that, no rebuilding year is needed. In fact, no rebuilding year is on the horizon.
The Golden Tornado are in reload mode.
"We're just about where we want to be," said 17th-year Butler coach Scott Stoner. "We're getting a steady influx of talented young wrestlers who have been well-schooled in how we want to do things.
"Now we've got a real shot at beating North Allegheny, winning our section, contending in the WPIAL — a very legitimate shot."
Butler won a school-record 21 dual matches in 2007-08. The Tornado increased that record to 23 last season.
This year's team is off to an 8-0 start with only two seniors, Mike Scialabba at 189 pounds and Chris White at 215, in the starting lineup.
At the same time, the Butler Junior High wrestling team is 47-7 in dual matches over the past three years.
Only two Tornado starters have losing records. One is a freshman and the other is a sophomore at heavyweight.
"We want to make wrestling become the sport at Butler," said junior high coach Don Geibel. "That's been our mindset. "
Geibel has been the Tornado's junior high coach for five years. He got a number of current varsity wrestlers, Matt Pribis, Cody Hartman, Carlos Sanchez and Jordan Allen among them, to try the sport in eighth grade.
"He and Coach Stoner really promoted the sport when I was in junior high," said Pribis, a junior sporting a 13-2 record and leading the team in takedowns. "They caught my attention.
"My best friend was Cody Hartman and he tried it, so I wanted to try it. I had been playing basketball, but I was too physical. I was fouling out in the first half of games.
"This is a sport I can use my physicality toward success. I've loved wrestling from day one," Pribis added.
Butler has a number of wrestlers who have come through the elementary program as well. Cole Baxter and Mike Crawford are unbeaten as juniors and have been teammates since fourth grade.
They've been workout partners in the room for all those years as well.
"There's a number of us in those middle weight classes who have pushed each other for a long time," Crawford said. "We've made each other better over time."
Butler has anywhere from 40 to 80 wrestlers in its elementary program. Crawford said there were 30 when he was in that program.
"The numbers fluctuate at that level," Stoner said. "Some kids discover they don't have the wrestling mindset and get out of it."
All of the coaches in the system possess that mindset. Geibel, elementary coach Joe Davis and junior high assistant Rob Hromack all wrestled for Stoner at Butler. Varsity assistant coach Bill Mylan is a former head wrestling coach at Beth-Center.
"When I was in elementary school, Joe and Rob were seniors in high school," junior 140-pounder Eric Tuck said. "I grew up wanting to be like them. I used to go to their matches.
"Being coached by them just fueled the fire."
"They weren't high school wrestlers very long ago," he said. "They do a great job of preparing younger guys for what to expect when they get up here. The transition is smooth."
Geibel didn't begin his wrestling career until late. He failed to win a match his sophomore year and wound up winning 32 and qualifying for the PIAA Tournament as a senior.
"If you work hard, you can overcome lost time," Geibel said. "It's easy for me to sell that to the kids."
And the kids listen.
"The impact Don Geibel's had on this program can't even be measured," Stoner said. "He and I identify with each other. I walked on the wrestling team at Slippery Rock University and was the worst 118-pounder in the room my first year.
"That next year, I was a starter. I still get on the mat and wrestle with these guys in the room now. We still have that passion for wrestling and what this sport can do for a young man."
Butler has 26 wrestlers on the varsity team and 37 on the junior high squad.
"I don't cut anybody," Geibel said. "Any kid who wants to wrestle, we'll work with him."
It's working into a winner for Butler High School.
"I take our performance on the mat personally," Stoner said. "I know the level of talent that's in our room right now. Its on me to see it through and I'm shouldering the responsibility of doing that."
Here are the Butler High wrestling leaders so far this season:
• Takedowns: Matt Pribis 30
• Reversals: Matt Pribis 11
• Escapes: Dakoda Collins 11
• 2-point near falls: Zach Reges 6
• 3-point near falls: Chris White 21
• Pins: Cole Baxter 10
• Technical falls: Cole Baxter and Eric Tuck 2
• Major decisions: Dakoda Collins 4
• Decisions: Matt Pribis 8
• Team points: Cole Baxter 80
• Wins: Mike Scialabba 16