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EHS grapplers find success one match at a time

In case you’re wondering, wrestling with a mask is not fun.

The Emmaus wrestling team overcame that inconvenience and had plenty of fun during a shortened 2021 campaign. It’s fun wrestling when you’re winning and the Hornets were 5-0 during the regular season. Two of the five came against rival Parkland, which also didn’t bother the Hornets one bit.

The team had many individual success stories, including two tenacious warriors - Nick Velde and Kordell Waiters - who finished fifth and sixth respectively at the PIAA Class 3A East Super Regional.

At times, however, the season was a grind. The Hornets were forced into a delay before the season even started Jan. 20. The team was split into two groups. One group was conditioning and lifting every other day, while the other developed technique and wrestling skills every other day. The focus for the Emmaus wrestling program became a takeoff on the adage - “take it one match at a time.”

Several new faces carried out the “keep it basic” theme. Gone were four wrestlers from the 2019-2020 squad who, for various reasons, this year decided not to suit up.

At the helm was coach Thad Smith, for years a mainstay in the Emmaus wrestling program. This year Smith earned his 100th career victory. When he talks about the sport, you hear a grown man who inside still has a some little boy.

“I really enjoy the teaching part of the sport and the sport is still fun and spending time with wrestlers keeps me young,” Smith said after his 100th victory.

One wrestler who deserves credit has to be Marco Albanese. The feisty 120-pound sophomore went 8-2 this year.

“Marco has come up through the program and has a very good work ethic,” Smith said. “Everything he gets, he has earned through hard work. He is very coachable and is willing to listen to the coaches to make himself better.”

Senior Connor Carter won 78 percent of his matches, mostly at 285 pounds. Geovanni Lainez, a 113-pound senior, went 7-2 during the year, while junior Trevor Gitski went 6-3 at 215. Carter, Lainez and Gitski were expected to perform well this season, but one of the year’s biggest surprises had to be the wrestling of Quin Scott. The 160-pound junior improved from a 13-17 record in ‘19-’20 to a 7-2 mark this year. The season also saw the return of a 145-pound stick of dynamite named Evan Camire.

Overall the Hornets finished fifth in the District 11 Class 3A Individual Championships held Feb. 20 and 21 at Parkland High School and took ninth place at the Northeast 3A Regional the following weekend at the Charles Chrin Community Center in Palmer Township. Two wrestlers punched their tickets to the PIAA Super Regional during that weekend.

Velde and Waiters both lost their opening match at the super regional, held Saturday at Quakertown High School. Both battled back to the fifth-place match in their weight classes. Velde won his by technical fall over Austin Smith (Abington Heights), while Waiters lost 4-0 to Noah Okamoto (Nazareth) and finished sixth. The top four from super regionals advance to this week’s state championships.

PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB The Hornets' Kordell Waiters' high school wrestling career ended Saturday at the PIAA East Regional Championships.
PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Nick Velde was one of two EHS wrestlers to advance through districts and regionals.