JACKSON TWP — Nick Montalbano and Jason Geyer have put blood, sweat and tears into the Seneca Valley wrestling program.
Beginning next year, both will do so at the next level.
The seniors recently signed letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at American University and New York University, respectively.
“To see kids put the work in and get to go to the school of their choice, it’s very rewarding,” said SV coach Kevin Wildrick.
Montalbano also considered several other schools, including PSAC members Clarion and Millersville. He was sold on Division I American University, partly due to the school’s location in Washington, D.C.
“It’s the perfect place to be for me,” he said. “I always was looking to go to a smaller school and there’s so much to do there. Their wrestling team already has a couple of Pittsburgh-area guys — Eric Hong from North Allegheny and Gage Curry from North Hills. They have recruited well in the WPIAL and I hope to keep that going.”
Montalbano was bothered by a nagging shoulder injury last year, but still went 35-13 while placing second in the section tournament and going 2-2 at WPIALs.
He will wrestle at 152 pounds this season.
“I learned in April that I had a torn labrum,” Montalbano said. “I had surgery in May and it was tough not being able to work out and wrestle. But I’m excited about this season. There’s a lot of good competition and I plan on leaving it all out there.”
Montalbano, who plans to major in biology or chemistry, began wrestling when he was eight. Spending a decade in the sport has left an indelible mark on the Cranberry Township resident.
“I love the physical atmosphere that comes with wrestling,” he said. “I love practice and the mental rush you get from a good practice or a good lift.”
And of course, winning on the mat. Montalbano plans on doing that a lot this season.
“I want to win a section, WPIAL and state title,” he said. “I believe I can win it all this year.”
Wildrick isn’t betting against him.
“The sky is the limit for Nick,” he said. “He’s one of the hardest working kids out there. It’s good that he has lofty goals.”
Geyer, SV’s top 132-pounder, has long pictured himself living in a big city. He will get the chance to do so at New York University, a Division III school in Manhattan.
“There’s a lot of opportunity there,” he said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to go to the best possible school and use wrestling to help me get there. The quality of NYU’s business program put them over the top for me.”
Geyer went 33-15 last season and placed runner-up at the section tournament for the second straight year.
As is the case with Montalbano, wrestling has become an important part of Geyer’s life and something he does not take for granted.
“There’s no sport that can challenge you like wrestling,” he said. “I love that.”
A berth into the state tournament has eluded Geyer, but he has one final chance to change that.
“Getting to states would mean everything to me,” he said. “I want to medal at both WPIALs and states.”
Geyer has done everything he can to put himself in position to do just that.
“Some wrestlers tend to get out of shape during the off-season,” Wildrick said. “Not Jason. He is extremely fit and is always in good shape.”
Both Geyer and Montalbano have 100 varsity wins in their sights. The former carries an 83-39 record into the upcoming season while Montalbano sports a 77-41 mark.
The two are part of a stacked SV lineup that has the Raiders thinking big in 2018-19. Last year, they placed third in the WPIAL and reached the state semifinals as a team.
“Our coaches have made our schedule as tough as possible to make sure we are ready,” said Geyer.
“Ever since last season ended, I have been thinking about where we could end up,” said Montalbano. “How can we take it to the next level?”