New coach, same goals for Hempfield wrestling team
Tuesday, December 4, 2018 | 7:21 PM
There is a new man running the Hempfield wrestling program after Vince DeAugustine left to take over coaching duties at Norwin.
Veteran coach Tommy Dolde, who led Connellsville to a state title in 2005 and WPIAL titles in ’04, ’05 and ’08, has taken the reins for the Spartans.
Dolde had a 265-75 record during his 13 years at Connellsville. He was an assistant under his dad, the late Tom Dolde, when the Falcons won four WPIAL titles.
The veteran coach shouldn’t have a hard time keeping the Hempfield wrestling program near the top, given the Spartans returning talent.
The Spartans, ranked No. 3 in Class AAA in the TribHSSN preseason poll, return nine starters, including three PIAA qualifiers from a squad that advanced to the WPIAL semifinals but later was forced to forfeit a win over Seneca Valley for using an academically ineligible wrestler.
The returning PIAA qualifiers — senior Kyle Burkholder, who finished third, and sophomores Ty Linsenbigler and Isaiah Vance — all have one goal in mind: be a state champion.
Dolde said he feels that could happen because of the wrestlers’ talent, work ethic and drive.
“I’m going to try to help them reach their goals,” Dolde said. “They want to reach the top of the podium in Hershey.
“I’ve been evaluating things for a couple weeks. I’m not going to change much. They’re already well trained.”
Hempfield won Section 1B in 2018 but lost to Kiski Area in the section finals. The Spartans finished 19-2.
Dolde knows this team can be competitive and compete for the team title.
The schedule is strong. He’ll find out a lot about the team the first month of the season.
The Spartans are in the Cumberland Valley tournament Friday and Saturday, go to the Moon Duals on Dec. 9, the Powerade tournament on Dec. 28 and 29, the Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association tournament Jan. 4 and 5.
They also face No. 2 Canon-McMillan on Dec. 21.
“We have to mesh the experienced wrestlers with the inexperienced wrestlers,” Dolde said. “We also need leadership.”
One thing Dolde likes to see from his wrestlers is to achieve the weight they want to compete at for the postseason tournaments by the holiday break.
“I believe that if you can reach your optical weight by then you can maximize your training,” he said.
Burkholder (77-15 career, 40-5 last season) began his career with Dolde at Connellsville. He spent the last two seasons at Hempfield with DeAugustine. He placed third at 113 pounds at the WPIAL and PIAA tournament a year ago.
“I learned a lot from Coach DeAugustine,” Burkholder said. “I learned a lot at the state tournament the past two seasons. The biggest thing is that anyone is beatable, and I’m beatable of I don’t keep on my toes.”
Linsenbigler (33-7) went 1-2 at the state tournament. He said he was a little intimidated at first but is ready to return. He placed third at 138 pounds at the WPIAL tournament.
“I was nervous,” Linsenbigler said. “Everyone is good at the state tournament. I want to be a top the podium this year.”
Vance (34-9) placed third in the WPIAL at heavyweight. He went 2-2 at the state tournament.
Other returning WPIAL qualifiers are sophomore Ethan Berginc (25-12) at 106 pounds, senior Jared Breen (24-12) at 126, junior Trevor Verkleeren (21-11) at 145, junior Justin Cramer (19-11) at 195 and junior Dillon Ferretti (23-10) at 220.
Dolde is excited to see several wrestlers fit into his lineup, including senior Zack Berginc at 145 pounds, sophomore Nolan Daerr at 126 and freshmen Briar Priest at 106, Daniel Beck at 182 and Brett Birch at 145.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at email@example.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.