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Seton Hill wrestling making strides on and off the mats

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 11:44 p.m.
Seton Hill's A.J. Fisher scores on PSU Greater Allegheny's Erik Rayman during their 141-pound bout on November 29, 2012 in Greensburg. Fisher won an 11-7 decision to hand Rayman his frist loss of the year. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

When Seton Hill senior Zach Benzio recently won first place in the 174-pound weight class at the Mt. Union Invitational, new coach Brian Tucker could envision the program's future.

Tucker inherited a program that has struggled the past few years, but also one that is located in the heart of one of the country's top high school wrestling areas.

Tucker is leaning on two former WPIAL stars to lead the Griffins back to a winning season. Senior Mike Grant (Greensburg Salem) and Benzio (Latrobe) will be counted on to carry heavy loads this year.

“My expectations are high this year,” Tucker said. “Everybody has bought into my system and is working extremely hard. Those two (Grant and Benzio) are going to have big seasons. But aside from wrestling, they are great all-around people. They are leaders for us and set incredible examples.”

One of Tucker's goals is to make the program have a presence on and off campus.

One interesting method Tucker used to start the season was having his wrestlers invite their professors to attend last Thursday's match. It was so the professors could see them in a setting other than the classroom.

The event was also marketed heavily on campus and drew a huge turnout. Seton Hill defeated Penn State Greater Allegheny, 48-0.

“It was a big success,” Tucker said. “It was a great atmosphere and stage for our guys to display their talents. Wrestling is great in this area, and we're working really hard to promote the program.”

Tucker came to Seton Hill after being an assistant at Division I Bloomsburg for the past three years. He also wrestled at Ohio State.

“My experience at Bloomsburg was the best of both worlds from an athletic standpoint,” Tucker said. “Wrestling there is Division I, but all the others sports are Division II (like Seton Hill).”

Next season the Griffins will transition to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. It's a move Tucker feels will elevate the status of the program to local wrestlers.

“The best part for us will be that we'll be competing against schools people around here recognize by name and are familiar with their wrestling teams,” he said.

Until the move, however, the Griffins still need to take care of business this season.

Seton Hill (2-1) finished fourth overall at the Mount Union Invitational and also defeated Thiel College in a 17-15 victory. The lone setback came against Lake Erie College, 23-13.

“We have a good mix of wrestlers,” Tucker said. “We have some solid upperclassmen and some high-potential younger guys.

“We're becoming a true team. Everybody thinks wrestling is an individual sport, but it's not all about individual performances. We have a group of young men who realize this and are fighting hard for each other.”

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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