HAWLEY — For Scott Gee, overseeing a wildly successful wrestling program can be a double-edged sword at times.
A product of Great Valley High School down in District One, Coach Gee is entering his fourth season at the helm of Wallenpaupack Area's junior high squad.
He's been around the sport his entire life and has a knack for getting the most out of his kids.
That ability … helping young grapplers realize their full potential … has led to consistent success at the junior high level.
Last winter, Paupack rolled to an outstanding 16-5 overall record. The Bucks also finished second in the Lackawanna League and at the year-end tournament.
All of this success comes with a hefty price tag, though. Over the course of the past two seasons, Coach Gee has seen a staggering number of his kids advance to the next level.
In fact, varsity skipper Steve Krushnowski started 12 underclassmen (six freshmen, six sophomores) last weekend at Ram Duals, hosted by Wyalusing.
"It's very gratifying to see all those kids doing well," said Coach Gee. "But, it kind of leaves us in a tough situation. We still have good numbers, but it's challenging at the moment."
Paupack still has a luxury many other area programs would kill for: 40 young wrestlers vying for 19 slots. Nevertheless, it will likely be weeks before the starting line-up shakes out for good.
"Most of our kids are in that 110-122 pound range," Coach Gee said. "Right now, we're struggling to fill in some of those upper weight divisions. We'll be okay, but it's going to take some time."
Paupack opened its 2012-'13 campaign last weekend with a berth at the Pittston Duals tournament.
The Bucks return to action Saturday morning at the Blue Mountain Junior High Invitational. Wrestling begins at 9:15 a.m.
Page 2 of 3 - Leadership
As expected with such a young and inexeperienced squd, Paupack took some lumps at Pittston.
The Bucks went 1-4 in their bracket, but several individual wrestlers turned in noteworthy efforts.
Zach Krial led the way. A freshman who competes in the 85-pound bracket, Krial dazzled in his season debut.
He hammered out four wins in five bouts and piled up three pins along the way.
"I have to be honest with you: If Zach was 20 pounds heavier, he'd be competing for a varsity spot at 106," said Coach Gee. "He's really that good."
Paul Zummo is an eighth grader starting his second year in the junior high line-up. Zummo competes at 138 and is known for his size, strength and blue collar work ethic.
He also posted a 4-1 record at Pittston and came through with three pins.
"Paul is a pinner," Coach Gee said. "Physically, he's one of our strongest kids. He needs to sharpen up his technique a little bit, but he can already hang with just about anyone because he's big and strong."
Connor Barton is just a seventh grader who doesn't have much mat time yet. However, he's shown an affinity for quick learning and making adjustments.
Barton (95 lbs) lost his first two bouts at Pittston, but then roared back to win three straight by fall.
"The first day I saw him at practice, I knew we had something," Coach Gee said. "He just moves like a wrestler. Connor has a lot of natural ability and he works really hard. He's just going to keep getting better."
Bobby Mattern is a frosh who's quickly developing into a genuine leader. He will be wrestling anywhere from 165 and 185 pounds, depending on the situation.
Page 3 of 3 - Mattern went 3-2 at Pittston and earned rave reviews from his skipper.
"Bobby's one of our most talented big guys," Coach Gee said. "He's a freshman now and he's really starting to put it all together. Bobby is stepping up and setting a good example for the seventh graders."
On Their Way
In addition to these four veterans, several talented youngsters are also on the radar for Paupack.
Jared Maxwell joins the Buckhorns as a transfer from Nanticoke. An eighth grader who is currently wrestling up at 90 pounds, Maxwell is expected to play a key role this winter.
Zach Williams hasn't yet set foot on the mat this year, but Coach Gee is champing at the bit to get him into the line-up at heavyweight.
Williams is also an eighth grader who's size and athletic ability make him an exciting prospect.
Danny Valerez is entering his first season of organized wrestling at Paupack. Coach Gee is hoping to pencil Valerez into the line-up at 220.