ON CAMPUS: Former Derry star overcomes rocky start at Penn State
• EDITOR’S NOTE: On Campus features graduates of area high schools who are playing college sports. This weekly installment appears every Friday in The Indiana Gazette throughout the school year. If you know of anyone who should be featured, email Mirza Zukic at email@example.com or call (724) 465-5555, ext. 267.
Former four-time PIAA champ and Derry graduate Jimmy Gulibon has found a groove after withstanding a rocky start to his redshirt-freshman campaign wrestling for three-time defending NCAA team champ Penn State.
Gulibon followed a 4-1 start by dropping five straight matches, three of them to top-10 ranked wrestlers, according to Intermatwrestle.com, between Nov. 10 and Dec. 21.
Although unaccustomed to slumps, Gulibon, the country’s 15th-ranked 133-pounder, regained his footing and won five straight matches to reach the finals of the annual Southern Scuffle at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga on Jan. 1.
Gulibon (11-8) notably bested Minnesota’s David Thorn (No. 9), an NCAA All-American, and Stanford’s Ryan Mango (No. 10), a two-time All-American, en route to the championship bout.
In the finals, NCAA All-American and fourth-ranked Jon Morrison (Oklahoma State), who was the country’s top-ranked 133-pounder at the time, outlasted Gulibon, 4-0, to win the esteemed tournament.
“I feel like I’m getting stronger,” Gulibon said. “I was in a slump and had pretty big losing streak going, but I turned that around at the Southern Scuffle.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to wrestle. I like to go out there and try to score points, but I stuck with it and opened up a little bit and ended up winning (some matches).”
Gulibon came into the season confident after racking up a 21-7 record and placing fourth at the Southern Scuffle in his redshirt season last year.
But facing top-flight competition like Lehigh’s Mason Beckman (No. 7), Ohio State’s Johnni DiJulius (No. 5) and Iowa’s Tony Ramos (No. 3), among others, has humbled the already modest Gulibon.
“Every match in college is just a battle,” Gulibon said. “It’s always exciting but you always have to be totally prepared. You can’t take any matches lightly and you have to go out there and wrestle your style and your type of match.”
With the top-ranked Nittany Lions (10-0, 5-0 Big Ten) on course for their fourth straight NCAA team title, and with two-time NCAA runner-up Nico Megaludis pushing him in practice, Gulibon said he’ll only feel satisfied with an NCAA title at year’s end.
“My goal is to be an NCAA champion this year,” Gulibon said. “I’m really not looking for anything less than that. With partners like Nico and with our great coaching staff and all our great teammates, it all just adds up and gives me confidence going ahead. I just have to go there and wrestle my match, and I think it’s possible.”
Gulibon finished his career at Derry with a 136-4 record. He won the Walsh Ironman Tournament in 2010 before becoming just the fourth wrestler in the history of the prestigious Powerade Christmas Tournament to claim a fourth title in 2011.
TRAVIS SHAFFER (Pitt, wrestling): A junior and former PIAA champ for Derry in the 2010-11 season, Shaffer has posted a 16-7 record during his junior season for the Panthers, including an 11-6 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference competition, although he has competed only in unattached matches and is taking a redshirt.
Shaffer (141 pounds), a three-time WPIAL champ, scored his most notable win of the season when he upset Intermatwrestle.com’s eighth-ranked 149-pounder, Penn State’s Andrew Alton, on Dec. 28.
Alton won a pair of PIAA titles for Central Mountain High School before qualifying for the NCAA championships the last two seasons at Penn State.
In their inaugural season in the ACC, Pitt has gotten off to a 9-1 start, including a 3-0 mark in the conference.
AUDREY STAPLETON (East Stroudsburg, women’s basketball): The younger sister of IUP guard Leslie Stapleton and a freshman guard for East Stroudsburg, Audrey Stapleton has started the past eight games for the streaking Warriors.
Stapleton played 31 minutes and scored a career-high 11 points in the Warriors’ 74-65 win over Pitt Johnstown on Jan. 8.
In East Stroudsburg’s 70-58 win over Cheyney on Wednesday, Stapleton collected 10 points and five rebounds.
On Dec. 1, Stapleton nailed the go-ahead free throws with 36 seconds to play to lift East Stroudsburg to a 66-63 win over Philadelphia University.
In 17 games played, Stapleton has dished out 16 assists and nabbed 10 steals. She’s also made 10 of 12 free throws and is averaging 4.6 points per game.
The Warriors have won three straight games and sport a 9-8 record.
BRIDGET McCLURE (Slippery Rock, women’s basketball): A junior guard and 2011 Marion Center graduate, McClure has seen action in 10 of Slippery Rock’s 17 games.
In her 47 minutes on the floor this year, McClure has notched 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.
McClure scored a career-high five points in Slippery Rock’s 95-80 loss to Clarion on Nov. 20.
The Rock (4-13) faces IUP in their next game Saturday at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.
JON HAYCOCK (Clarion, men’s swimming): Haycock, a freshman and 2013 Indiana graduate who specializes in both the breaststroke and freestyle, has already made an impact for the Clarion men’s swim team.
Haycock placed 10th in the 200 breaststroke to help the Golden Eagles place fourth in team scoring at the Zippy Invitational on Dec. 8 at Akron University.
Clarion beat Grove City College, 203-124, in its first meet of the year on Oct. 19. The Golden Eagles then fell to Carnegie Mellon, 174-119, in their only other meet on Nov. 2.
Last year, Haycock not only won his third straight WPIAL title as a member of the Indians’ 200 medley relay, he also won his first WPIAL individual title in the 100 breaststroke.
ALISSA LOVE (Clarion, women’s swimming): A 2013 graduate of Saltsburg, Love, a freshman, is still looking for her first impactful performance for the Clarion women’s swim team.
A two-time PIAA qualifier for the Trojans, Love will focus on the butterfly.
Clarion fell to Grove City College, 187-145, in its first meet of the year on Oct. 19. In their only other meet, the Golden Eagles lost to Carnegie Mellon, 186?-111?, on Nov. 2.
PAIGE PECORA (Saint Vincent, women’s swimming): A junior and 2011 graduate of Ligonier Valley, Pecora has taken on a bona fide leadership role for the second straight year for the Saint Vincent women’s swim team.
In her best performance of the season, Pecora swam on a pair of winning relay teams to steer the Bearcats to a second-place finish at the IUP Invitational on Nov. 21. Pecora anchored the winning 800 freestyle relay team, which set a school record with a time of 8:00.36. Pecora, who placed third in the 50 freestyle, also led the 400 freestyle relay team to a first-place finish and the 200 freestyle relay team to a third-place finish.
Pecora began the season by leading the Bearcats’ 200 freestyle relay team to a second-place finish at the Westminster Relays on Oct. 25.
In Saint Vincent’s Presidents’ Athletic Conference opener, Pecora placed first in the 100 freestyle in a 139-123 loss to Grove City College on Nov. 2.
A week later, Pecora finished second in both the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle in a tri-meet that the Bearcats split with York College and Dickinson.
On Nov. 15, Pecora won the 200 freestyle and the 100 freestyle and placed second in the 50 freestyle in the Bearcats’ 143-119 loss to Mount Union. Pecora also swam on Saint Vincent’s winning 200 freestyle relay team.
Pecora won the 200 freestyle and led a pair of relay teams (200 medley and 400 freestyle) to first-place finishes in the Bearcats’ 153-140 win over Washington and Jefferson in a PAC meet on Jan. 15.
Pecora took the 100 freestyle and the 200 freestyle to power Saint Vincent to wins over both Chatham and Bethany in a PAC tri-meet on Saturday.
Last year, Pecora was named to the second team of the All-PAC squad. She swam a leg of the 200 freestyle relay team that set a school record in NCAA B-Cut times. Pecora, who earned PAC All-Academic honors, also swam on the 400 medley relay team that set a school record.
As a freshman, Pecora placed 10th in the PAC championships in the 100 freestyle and 13th in the 200 freestyle.