Taking their rank, and then filing it
BY JEFF YOUNG, Assistant Sports Editor
They regard this news with something less than rapture, which probably reflects the demanding, often humbling nature of their sport.
It also suggests that Dan Neff and Bobby Rehm see their measure of recognition as just a beginning.
Like the first step toward something much more meaningful, and something they greatly desire.
"I honestly don't like to look at the rankings much,'' Neff told his caller on Wednesday. "It doesn't matter who's ranked above you or below you, because in the end you still have to go out there and wrestle the same match you do every time.''
Still, it's clear that Neff and Rehm, former L-L League Section One competitors turned Lock Haven University teammates, are earning attention on the mat.
Neff, a 2011 state champion at Solanco, is listed in several Division I rankings at 141 pounds. He's No. 18 according to Amateur Wrestling News, No. 19 in the InterMat poll and No. 20 according to the Gregg Henry's/Wrestling Report listings. He is also 24th in this season's first NCAA coaches poll.
Rehm, a 2011 state medalist for Penn Manor, is No. 32 at 125 pounds in the NCAA coaches' rankings.
Just in front of him at No. 30 is Bucknell's Austin Miller (Hempfield), who wasn't in the lineup for Friday night's 23-16 Bald Eagles victory in Lewisburg.
And if you think Rehm might be spurred on by the numbers in front of their names, congratulations. Take a seat at the head of the class.
"I use it as motivation, because I want to be on the higher end of the rankings,'' Rehm said. "And I feel like once you get there, then people start to know, 'this guy's for real.'
"You want to be the guy that people don't want to wrestle. You want that intimidation.''
Standing between Rehm and that intimidator identity, for now at least, is consistency, which he considers his immediate goal.
He is 20-8 this year after a 28-17 freshman season, during which he learned plenty about the differences between high school and college wrestling.
"First off, there's not a bad (opponent) in Division I wrestling,'' he said. "You can't overlook anyone, and every match is a battle. Another thing is there's guys that are a lot bigger than you and a lot stronger than you. ... Then, just having the technique ... it's so much different than in high school, because certain things you did in high school, they won't work in college.''
Things like trying to muscle somebody into a quick fall, for example. Or maybe thinking you can spend an occasional match on cruise control. That just doesn't happen.
Neff (22-5), a redshirt freshman, said all his credentials carry equal weight when he steps onto the mat. Which is to say they are equally meaningless.
"Maybe you have a little bit of an intimidation factor,'' he allowed, "but the way I look at somebody who would be ranked above me is that's a great opportunity for me to knock off the top guy.
"Everybody has almost the same skill level. It's pretty much whoever goes out there and gets it, and just gets physical with the other person.''
Neff said he has benefited from the experience and knowledge of his father, Dan, a state bronze medalist for Penn Manor in 1984 and one of the all-time winners at the University of Delaware. He also took the option for a non-medical redshirt last year, just to better acclimate himself to college both academically and athletically. He was able to enter five open tournaments during the season.
"Sometimes it was a little hard, training all the time but not really wrestling a lot,'' he said. "But I think getting through that really helped me this year, because I was able to put in so much time in the practice room.''
Lock Haven coach Robbie Waller said probably the biggest difference between Rehm and Neff is one of personality. He described Neff as more outgoing, Rehm as more introverted.
However, that contrast dissolves at the mat's edge.
"When they wrestle, they're on the same page, and that's domination,'' Waller said. "That's what we want out of every guy, regardless of their demeanor.''
What Neff and Rehm want, of course, are NCAA tournament berths and All-America honors (by finishing eighth or higher in the NCAAs). Those goals provide all the motivation any Division I grappler should ever need.
For now, though, they'll happily take the rankings and use them as fuel for a postseason explosion.
"That's where the fireworks start,'' Waller said, "and we're hoping to go out with a bang.''
As mentioned above, Neff and Rehm aren't the only local products with national recognition.
Bucknell's Miller, a sophomore who stands at 14-9, was a two-time state medalist at Hempfield and qualified for the NCAAs last year as a freshman (22-14). He led the team in victories and placed third in the EIWA tournament.
Warwick's Bryan Pearsall, a redshirt senior at Penn State, is ranked 23rd at 141 by the coaches. He is 17-7 and well on his way to a third straight winning season after finishing 15-12 last year and 13-6 as a sophomore.
nLock Haven teammates and L-L League alums Dan Neff and Bobby Rehm are on several national lists, but both know it's what they accomplish on the mat each time out that really matters.