Wrestling is built around a family mentality. Anyone in the Central Pennsylvania wrestling scene can tell you that.
To build it there first needs to be a leadership figure, someone the entire team can trust to guide them in the right direction.
Last season for Mechanicsburg, that leader was middleweight Brayden Wills. Wills knew what it took to win and to reach the podium at states. His seventh-place finish in the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships and a 112-33 career record proved it.
However, Wills needed to pass on the torch when graduation came around. To most teams its a tough decision to make. For the Wildcats, well, head coach Greg Budman knew exactly who would fit into the role.
“Brady Serina has really stepped up to the position that Brayden Wills once held,” he said. “Brady has become the leader of the team and the kids are coming to him for advice and other information.”
Serina’s wasn’t Wills last year — he went 22-9 last season with a fifth-place finish at sectionals — but Serina know what it takes to be the best of the best: hard work and dedication on and off the mat. That mentality is what drew other wrestlers on the team to him.
Serina first got into wrestling after seeing everyone on his mom’s side grapple — funnily enough, all for Mechanicsburg. When Serina was 5 years old, he finally got the chance to try the sport out.
And some others.
“I tried to play other sports growing up, but was awful at everything,” Serina said, emphasizing “tried.” “I couldn’t catch, couldn’t throw and I couldn’t hit a ball... which kept me in wrestling.”
Another thing that kept Serina coming back to wrestling was the support he got from everyone around him. According to the senior, whether it was from family, friends or teammates, he always knew he had “something to look forward to in the next season and the opportunity to make more memories” with his team.
As Serina kept up with the sport and moved up in the ranks, he realized just how much he could manipulate his moves to get better and better. Even if better high school opponents wouldn’t let him get away with them now.
“I don’t remember much from junior high wrestling, but I do remember how easy it was,” Serina said. “The moves that I could use at that level wouldn’t hold up too well in high school. I took a long time to adjust, as I didn’t take a single shot my freshman year.”
With that adjustment came Serina’s ability to adapt to a situation and learn quickly — something he’s continued to be good at even now.
“Brady has many of the same qualities that I had as a wrestler,” Budman said. “We [both] took losing and turned it into a positive. Brady doesn’t dwell on a loss, but works harder to improve himself. He has beaten many kids that he lost to early in his career or during the season [because of this].”
Serina’s experiences and level of expertise in wrestling makes him the perfect leader Mechanicsburg needs.
One part of Serina that stands out from Wills is the fact that Serina knows how to use his voice. Budman admits that Serina knows how to be more vocal than Wills ever did and has even started leading team meetings and discussing upcoming matches and tournaments.
When the coaching staff can only do so much for a team, there comes a time when an individual wrestler needs to step up.
“Brady has the ability to work with anyone on the team. A good leader has the ability to relate to his teammates and they will listen to him,” Budman said. “Wrestling coaches have a lot of paperwork and other responsibilities that takes away from actually coaching. Brady is someone that the coaching staff can rely on to take over practices. He has been in the program since ninth grade and is in his third year as a captain.
“He understands how we coach and what are expectations are.”
Serina has already set goals for the team and really wants to see a successful squad on an off the mat.
According to Budman, Serina has the understanding that the underclassmen need direction and they’re going to come to him. Since most of these underclassmen have only been wrestling since the seventh grade, Serina’s experience and outlook are an important asset for the team.
Serina’s expertise even goes as far as knowing what it takes outside of the room and the commitment that gets you to be as successful as you can be, whether that be eating healthy and going for long runs when there is no practice.
For instance, according to Budman, one of Serina’s teammates was overweight, so Serina took it upon himself to make up a workout routine and a diet plan for him. He even got the wrestler a membership at a local gym.
Needless to say, the Wildcats have found a selfless leader in Serina.
“I’m excited more than anything,” Serina said about stepping into the spot Wills had, both on and off the mat. “Going from 126 to 152 was a big jump for me, and it’s a different style of wrestling. I’m looking forward to learning and succeeding at this weight class.
“The most important part of being a leader on the wrestling team is being seen as more than just a ‘team captain.’ I always make sure I’m available for normal wrestling advice, as well as helping my teammates outside of the sport with anything they need. I try to make the team more than just a group of guys that happen to play the same sport and create a family mentality.”
“Each team needs individual leaders that can inspire others around them and Brady Serina is doing that,” Budman said.
Personally, Serina is set on being in the top three at every tournament the Wildcats go to and making the state tournament.
The journey will start on Friday at the Top Hat Tournament in Williamsport at 9 a.m.
CARLISLE — Every day Andre Anderson is fighting human instinct.
Every day he struggles with the urge to compare this year’s Carlisle basketball team to that of the 2016-17 season, a roster with one of the great senior classes to take the court in Thundering Herd history.
Every day he wins the battle to compare and reflect too much, at least outwardly. Inside, however, he catches himself “every day using the other group as an example.”
“Naturally that’s what’s gonna happen,” the seventh-year coach (94-62) said from his office Monday evening after practice. “And naturally that’s what’s gonna happen when you have success.
“But if we sit back and think it’s just gonna happen and snap our fingers […] we’re gonna be a little upset at the end of the day.”
Can’t blame human nature. Even last year’s squad drew comparisons to the hallowed 1980s Thundering Herd programs. Humans are, after all, imperfect creatures.
And those same humans that saw a bit of the Billy Owens years during the Deshawn Millington era that ended in March in Altoona in a loss to Pine-Richland in the PIAA Class 6A semifinals also likely don’t see a similar run being made from this largely new cast of characters.
The Herd, for their part, will have to forgive those people.
“I like us being underdogs,” senior forward Ki Barnes said. “A lot of people don’t think we’ll still be as good, but I still think we got [the potential] to be right back where we were.”
“We expect nothing less than the year before,” his cousin, senior Gavyn Barnes, said. “We expect to make it to that state championship.”
So in Anderson’s fashion, let’s only rehash the past briefly before turning the page for good.
Led by Millington, who finished third in program history with 1,640 career points, 3-point-shooting center Ethan Houston, 3-point specialist Ben Milligan and rebounding aficionado Nate Barnes, the Herd did something they hadn’t in nearly three decades. Make the state semis. The 21-9 squad won the Mid-Penn Commonwealth, beat Harrisburg at home for the first time in Anderson’s tenure, again made a deep District 3 run and again played at Altoona, finishing a game short of facing eventual state champ Reading.
There. The past is the past.
Anderson told his team early during practice that he would not bring up last season again. He was and is excited to coach this new group and to see what they can do.
So look forward they shall.
The Barnes cousin — down to two now that Nate finished his freshman season impressing with West Chester’s football team — are the new leaders. Not the most talkative pair, they are nonetheless as ready as anyone to take control.
“I look forward to it every game,” said Ki, a 6-foot-5 basketball specimen with a smooth stroke and perhaps the highest upside.
Ki (6.2 ppg last year) will no longer be coming off the bench like he did late last year when consistency issues haunted him. Instead, Anderson expects a big improvement. The senior’s shooting stroke is well known and his handles are top notch. But above the shoulders is what matters most.
“His biggest part has been the mental side of the thing,” the coach said. “Is he gonna know what to run? Is he gonna keep his cool? That kind of stuff.”
And will he bring his best each game, even against lesser competition? Time to find out. Anderson said Ki could play all five positions this year at any point, sometimes as a small-ball center, the point on a beefier lineup, and everything in between.
Gavyn (13.5 ppg), a lion-hearted pinball who fills the slasher role for a team that expects to go with three guards in the starting lineup, is the most well-known commodity on the team. He had sparks last year of brilliance (the first half against the Cougars at home comes to mind) and is capable of spinning and cutting his way to 30 points on any given night.
“He’s one of the most competitive kids I know,” Anderson said. “And we need him around here.”
“I’m more of a threat going to the cup now, and I shoot, too,” the 5-foot-10 Gavyn said.
Senior Joe Mastrangelo, who came up big during the playoffs in several games as a key rebounder, is the starting center at 6-foot-6. A tight end and linebacker in football, he’ll bring grit and toughness to the starting lineup.
“He’s not a stretch-four type of guy, he’s not gonna shoot a bunch of 3s, he’s not gonna make a bunch of post moves,” Anderson said. “But what Joe does very well is he plays tremendous defense, he’s long, he can guard a one if he had to.
“He does his dirty work by getting offensive rebounds. He’s right where he needs to be for dump-offs and rebounds.”
While Anderson didn’t commit to a starting five Monday, senior Eveyon Davis (6-1) will start at guard and junior Howie Rankine (5-10 guard) is a safe bet to be the fifth. The expected top reserves are senior Nigel Newson (5-9 guard), juniors Quintin Myers (5-9, guard), Hunter Hargraves (6-3 wing), Trevor Hamilton (6-7 forward) and Kurtis Ravenel (5-10 forward), and sophomore James Barlow (6-4 forward).
Rankine is a wildcard capable of getting hot for 25 points, Anderson said. Davis and Newson received some of the most minutes last year outside of the returning top trio of Barnes, Barnes and Mastrangelo. Myers, Ravenel and Hargraves project as shooters. And Barlow had a “tremendous fall, came out of nowhere,” Anderson said.
“It’s clicking well,” Ki said.
The Herd will be a little more structured on offense, coach and players said. While there are plenty of athletes to still push quickly in transition, the Herd’s specialty, set pieces will be a bit more common in the half court to take advantage of the Barneses and the new shooters. And the defense will have to rely on a committee approach when it comes to rebounding.
In many ways, Anderson has to coach this group more than recent years. A lot of new faces require it. But it’s a welcomed challenge.
“I love it, man,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. And that’s just the basketball side of it.”
Carlisle opens the season with its customary Carlisle Classic tournament against South Western, Hempfield and Mechanicsburg. The Herd host South Western at 7:30 in Friday’s second game.
Early season matchups to circle include a Dec. 20 road trip to Harrisburg, then a date with the Red Knights in Reading two days later, part of a 18-day stretch where the Herd don’t play at home.
The past year of Devon Chenot’s swimming life has included plenty of transitions.
The Carlisle senior went from one-man band to leader on one of the Mid-Penn Conference’s well-regarded programs. From competing in Class 2A to winning gold medals in Class 3A. From intriguing prospect to NCAA Division I commit.
Chenot has navigated all that with relative ease, thanks in large part to help from his friends.
He arrived at Carlisle last year after spending his freshman and sophomore years at West Perry, where he competed independently. His insertion into an already talented Thundering Herd roster has proven beneficial for both parties.
“I think for me, being on a team changed everything,” Chenot said. “I got to be around these amazing kids that I call my teammates. Just being on a relay squad, and cheering other people on when they raced, was something that I was missing those first two years. That really helped motivate me.”
Proof of that came in the postseason, when Chenot claimed two individual golds at both the Mid-Penn Conference Championships (50 free, 100 fly) and the District 3 Championships (50 free, 100 free). He followed those performances with a pair of eighth-place finishes at the PIAA meet.
It wasn’t just a solo effort, though.
Chenot was also part of two medal-winning relay teams at districts, demonstrating how he and his new squad had helped each other reach new heights: the Herd gave him a strong group of teammates ready to take the next step, and he brought a pedigree that included a pair of District 3 Class AA titles won as a freshman.
“Devon has swum for the Carlisle Family YMCA since he was 9, with me as his coach and with a lot of these same kids as his teammates,” Carlisle coach Tara Young said. “Since he already had those relationships, he came in as a leader right away. It was a good boost for the program, to have somebody who had already experienced success and who could come in and lead and be a role model for the younger kids.”
Chenot’s district performance last season put him solidly on the radar of Penn State, which kept tabs on the rising senior throughout the summer YMCA circuit. He took his official visit to the school in September, after which he committed to the Nittany Lions.
Chenot had also taken an official visit to Pitt and had conversations with Cornell and Virginia Tech.
“I’ve always followed Penn State, and had always swam up there for YMCA state championships,” Chenot said. “Until last year, though, I had never considered it for swimming. It ended up really working out. They got in touch with me right before or right after districts last year, and really stayed in good contact throughout the summer. I took the official visit in September and it was the right fit.”
With his future plans locked down, Chenot is free to focus on his goals for the scholastic season.
Perhaps not surprisingly, No. 1 on is his list is a team achievement — a gold medal in a relay event at the Mid-Penn Championships. The Herd finished second in the 200 free relay and third in the 400 free relay last year at that meet. Juniors Isaiah Bell and Caleb Padgett return from those squads, making the prospect a realistic one.
Chenot will also see his brother, freshman Nolan Chenot, join the squad. They join a long list of siblings that have competed for Carlisle in recent years, further cementing the bond Devon has made with his Herd teammates.
“It’s more than just yourself,” Young said. “He loves cheering on the rest of the team, seeing everyone else have success, and being on the relay teams. That kind of stuff is what makes high school swimming different.”
Carlisle’s season begins Tuesday with a dual meet at home against Central Dauphin at 4 p.m. The Herd are at home for three of their first four meets to start the year.
The Herd boys and girls both finished fourth last year in the brutal Mid-Penn Commonwealth, behind Hershey, Cumberland Valley and State College.