Central Clarion Wildcats Wrestling Holds First Annual Team Banquet

Above Photo – Individual Award winners and Coaches: Front (L-R) Junior High: Benjamin Naser, Nate McDonnell, Tate Allison and Dylan Albertine. Back (L-R) Varsity and Coaches: Cameron Slike – Varsity Assistant Coach, Braun Gourley – Varsity Head Coach, Matt Alston, Josh Beal, Rudy Shetler, Kyle Cathcart – Junior High Assistant Coach and Mike LeFay – Junior High Head Coach.

The Central Clarion Wildcats Wrestling Boosters hosted the wrestlers, coaches and parents in their First Annual Team Banquet, on Wednesday, March 20th, at the Haskell House at the corner of Main Street and South Fifth Avenue in Clarion. The team which is open to wrestlers from Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, Keystone and North Clarion school districts as well as home, charter and cyber schoolers from within those areas, formed this past year from the former Clarion Area team, made up of those districts.

A portion of those in attendance

Central Clarion head coach, Braun Gourley began the festivities with opening remarks, including a welcome to all in attendance. Jill Henry followed with the Invocation and Blessing of the meal.

Then the attendees enjoyed the spread which included pizza, chips and many other delicious items.

Folks going through serving line

Following dinner, Elementary Coach Bryan Kiskadden was the first to introduce his team. He thanked everyone who attended and especially thanked the wrestlers and the parents who sacrifice to get them to practice, tournaments etc. coach Kiskadden mentioned that their were roughly forty to fifty wrestlers showing up throughout the year for various practices, matches and so-forth.

He introduced his assistant coaches, who helped present the youngsters in attendance with their certificates. He shared his confidence that these wrestlers would “make some noise,” in the future.

Photo by Tori Amsler – Elementary Coach Bryan Kiskadden (Back Right) with assistant coaches (L-R) with the elementary wrestlers proudly displaying their certificates: Front (L-R) is Nolan Burns, Mathew Cyphert, Beckett Kiskadden, Lexan Burns, Bronson Luton, Karsen Wolff, Caden Cyphert, Nico Niederhiser, Brock McClain, and Ryker Seitz; remaining wrestlers (L-R) Coleson Amsler, Lincoln Maxwell, Kasen Cathcart, Zeke Fesco, Hunter Niederhiser, Dominik Sheffer, Jaxon Sheffer, Case Hughes, and Everett Neely. (Two other coaches that were huge help this year but did not make the photo were Kyle Cathcart and Randy Cathcart.)

Next up was Junior High Head Coach Mike LeFay, who mentioned that this was a time to “honor and reflect” on the team’s fine accomplishments, work ethic… He mentioned that the squad exceeded all expectations.

Junior High Head Coach Mike LeFay flanked by Nate McDonnell and Dylan Albertine

There were several Individual Award winners for the Junior High: Benjamin Naser – “Hardest Worker,” Nate McDonnell – “Outstanding Sportsmanship,” Tate Allison – “Most Improved,” Dylan Albertine – “Leadership Excellence,” Nate McDonnell – “Outstanding Sportsmanship” and Cooper Macormac -“Grinder.”

Varsity Head Coach Braun Gourley then took the podium. He gave some special shoutouts: Bryn Kiskadden (BK Media) for the wonderful programs she does for the wrestling and other teams; Jon Beal, who for a number of years, has been the wrestling scorekeeper; Clarion Area Superintendent Dr. Joe Carrico for his work procuring the new Wildcat gear, and new Wildcat competition mats which will be used beginning next season; local media (Kenn Staub who writes for a number of outlets, Sara Smerker and Clarion Sports Zone); and the Wildcats Family – Clarion Area, Clarion-Limestone, Keystone and North Clarion School Districts, families and athletes.

He mentioned some of the team’s highlights, such as defeating Brookville for the first time in many years, and some of the disappointments, such as wrestlers who could have excelled more except for injuries and illness.

Coach Gourley shared the “Varsity Season By The Numbers,” with some pretty impressive stats: 11 wins (the second year in a row reaching double digit victories); 490 total matches; 259 wins; 53% winning percentage; 159 pins; 61% wins by pin; 168.5 points scored in the squad’s first place win at the Mercer VFW Tournament; 5 wrestlers with 20 or more wins; 18 number of wrestlers on Varsity at the end of the year.

He then shared numbers pertaining to senior Josh Beal, whose fine career ended with a trip to the PIAA State Wrestling Championships at Hershey: 39 wins this past season and 36 wins by fall in 2023-2024, both team records.

The last of the “Numbers” that Coach Gourley shared was 15 (November 15th) the first official day of practice. He also mentioned various wrestling opportunities available to the athletes throughout the off-season. He also mentioned that each member of the Varsity earned a letter.

Three Varsity wrestlers received individual awards: Matt Alston – “Coaches Award,” Josh Beal – “Most Valuable Wrestler” and Rudy Shetler – “Most Improved.”

Booster Secretary/Fundraising Chairman Dave Smail shared about the Booster Club’s work and fundraising activities. He asked for those who aren’t involved with the Boosters to consider getting involved. The club raises monies to spend on the wrestlers at all levels of the program.

The Operating Budget is structured to cover the program where the school district doesn’t. 

Some of the upcoming fundraisers include: the Start of the Season Raffle; Program Ad Sales – Fall 2024; Junior High Tournament – December 14, 2024 (biggest fundraiser); and Super Bowl Squares.

(Great Season, Wildcat Wrestling Team!!!! Great job, to all worked to make this special event happen!! Special thanks to Elisabeth Beal for helping me by coordinating information on individual awards and photo captions and Tori Amsler for her photo!!)