Sheptock returns to be part of camp
With the dog days of summer setting in, wrestling doesn't typically feature prominently in the discussion surrounding high school sports.
But all across the country, student-athletes are preparing for the upcoming season by participating in a myriad of camps, often traveling far and wide to stay on top of their game.
Recently, the opportunity to partake in such an event came much closer to home.
The Lehighton Takedown Club hosted its Lehigh Valley All-Star Division I Wrestling Camp for grades nine through 12 at Lehighton High Area School.
Those attending had the chance to receive instruction from a total of six Division-I coaches during the three-day camp, which will feature two sessions – morning and afternoon – daily.
The opening session featured plenty of skill, and one instructor in particular that was recognizable to many in attendance and eager to give back to an area he's very familiar with.
"I love wrestling, so anytime I get to show some wrestling, or come teach kids, it's always worth it to me, especially in this area," said Jimmy Sheptock, a three-time state medalist while at Northampton High School and two-time All-American at the University of Maryland, who is now an assistant wrestling coach at Drexel University.
"My heart is from the Lehigh Valley so I love giving back to the wrestling community. Anytime you can come out and teach kids wrestling, I'm all for it."
Sheptock was one of three Drexel representatives on hand. Joining Sheptock were redshirt junior Kevin Devoy, Jr. and Dragons' head coach Matt Azevedo.
With Sheptock entering only his second year as an assistant at Drexel, he's certainly not too far removed from his days competing for Maryland, which included a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships at 184 pounds in 2014.
It's that experience that Sheptock hopes to draw on as both an instructor and coach.
"I know what these kids are going through; every coach does," he said. "But being there so recently, I know what it's like. Hopefully I'm able to guide them and help them make some decisions."
Having someone with Sheptock's credentials is something Lehighton Takedown Club President Fred Kemmerer believed was beneficial for everyone in attendance.
"This is our third year doing a camp like this, but I tried to do it a little bit differently this year," Kemmerer said. "We have so many kids that are right on the cusp of being Division I, II or III wrestlers. I wanted them to have that experience of learning from six (Division I) coaches to say, 'This is what got us there.'
"When they're at districts this year, and you see some of the kids that are here take that next step further than they did last year, I want this to be one of the reasons why. If there is one thing that made them more confident, or one thing that made them better, I want them to get that from this."
Part of what makes the experience unique and advantageous for all involved is the ability to work with wrestlers that have a varied skill set while also getting advice from some of the top coaches – and wrestlers – in the country.
"I have no problem giving back, because growing up, this is what I did. I always went to a number of different camps," said Devoy, a native of Burlington, New Jersey, who tied Drexel's record for single season victories with 38 last season. "It's one thing to hear it from the same guy everyday. But hearing it from head coaches at the Division I level, Division I wrestlers like myself who are actually in it, I think it helps to hear that these moves that we're showing them give us success at this level – at the highest level possible.
"It helped me a lot as a kid to hear that and it gave me confidence that this stuff really does work and it made me practice it a lot more. It's great that they're here and hopefully it helps them out in the long run."
While the camp certainly benefited those getting ready for the upcoming high school season, it also helped some of the instructors, such as Devoy, refine their skills.
"The college kids probably benefit more than they realize," said Azevedo. "I like to get them out there and have them show the technique. I think it reiterates the points that we try to make and it has them become the coach and puts them in our shoes, which I think helps them learn from a different angle.
"For the kids, it's good for them to see what they can aspire to be. Here's a kid that placed at states and now is one of the best kids in the country in Division I wrestling. And they know who these kids are. They see them on TV, and it really resonates with them."
Sacred Heart University head coach Andy Lausier, who finished his career at Lycoming College with a record of 121-29 and three Middle Atlantic Conference titles, led the afternoon session.
After taking over the Pioneers before the 2012-13 campaign, Lausier has worked to build the program into a contender.
Getting a look at some of the talent in one of wrestling's hotbeds is something that brings Lausier from Sacred Heart's campus in Fairfield, Connecticut, to camps like this.
"For me, it's really important," said Lausier. "This is a little bit outside of our backyard, but every Division I coach in the country wants to penetrate the Pennsylvania market. So for us, it's a really big deal.
"And we're a unique program in that we're totally rebuilding ourselves. To be honest, in the first, second and maybe even third year, we probably weren't ready to come and start recruiting in Pennsylvania. We needed to build up our program so that we had a legitimate stable to come and attract the top talent in the country."
The camp will resume this morning at 8:30 a.m. with Princeton head coach Chris Ayres and will be followed by an afternoon session that will be led by Hofstra mentor Dennis Papadatos.
Action will come to an end tomorrow with a morning session from Buffalo University head coach John Stutzman. The day will conclude with Rutgers head coach Scott Goodale.