The season that tested Reynolds' young tradition, depth and youth.
Having 50 plus years to reflect on the ‘72 season (and I am absolutely biased), perhaps this team represents the best of Neal Lineman’s amazing leadership. Such was his confidence-building ability that a team with a lots of young talent, but not much experience, carried on with the belief of a much more mature team. 1972 demonstrated that all of his future teams, even the rebuilding years, would be championship-ready. And unknown to fans and foes at that time, this was the last year that Coach Lineman would lose a dual match in his career.
From Coach Lineman's Collection
The class of 72 was one of the smaller graduating classes of the 70’s teams with only seven seniors on the team and only three having earned varsity letters as underclassmen. Only four constant starters returned from the great 1971 team. Three of them, juniors Denny Emph and Walt McClimans along with senior Chuck Coryea were returning Section champs and provided some core experience but Walt missed over half of the 1972 season after breaking his ankle playing football on our Mercer County Championship team.
What resulted was an opportunity for a lot of hungry JV wrestlers and some new youngsters plus some tough but untested upper classmen to prove their chops as Raider Wrestlers.
Team Photos - 1972 Crest Yearbook
Like other years in the 70's, the yearbook staff made a separate JV photo to fit everyone in.
Lineman's development of a full elementary and junior high program with a good consistent coaching staff was coming to fruition as the freshman wrestlers were prepared to compete at a high level. Some of those freshmen are names that you frequently hear in Raider lore: Brian Hills, Rick Hawes, Steve Langoitti and John Fry.
The previous year’s JV squad didn’t have much varsity experience. But they competed against the best wrestlers in the district every day in practice and the bi-weekly eliminations were tougher than 95% of our matches. Some very significant performers from this group are more names that are well known in Raider history, including Fred Graham, Dan Stoyer, Brandt Benton, Kyle Benton, Leroy Sample, Dave Anthony, Dale Hills, Brian Holzshu, Owen Lenkner and Bill McNeish (who majored decisioned the defending section champ in his very first match).
An overriding stressor was a 56-match win streak to begin the season – the longest, by far, in school history to that point. Since the class of '71 never lost a match, there was a lot of internal pressure to not lose. Despite big wins early in the season, the inexperience for this young team was evident when they lost to an extremely good Greenville team, stopping the streak at 60.
Following the match Coach Lineman calmly lifted us up by convincing us that the loss would only benefit us. With the monkey of a winning streak off our backs, we got on with getting better to reach our potential. Sure enough, we ran the board with confidence, including huge wins over powerhouse Iroquois, who had a few future D1 college stars on its squad, an improving Meadville, and a very good Hickory team.
The season culminated with a championship performance at Sections by crowning 5 champs - John Fry, Denny Emp, Fred Graham, Dan Stoyer and Chuck Coryea, and a few 2nd place winners including Brandt Benton (who lost to state runner-up and future 3-time NCAA All American, Rande Stottlemyer) and freshman Brian Hills (in a loss to region champ, senior Doug Weaver). The success of this team was that it showed that the need to reload new talent would not slow down Reynolds’ relentless quest to be the best program in District 10.