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Jeannette grad moving up with Edinboro wrestling

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

In college wrestling, the difference from one weight class to the next is enormous, much more than the actual pounds between the classes.

Jeannette High School graduate Michael DePalma, started the season at the 149-pound weight class for Edinboro University but is now the starter at the 157. He's learning that adjustment can be difficult, but he's also succeeding and making an impact for the NCAA Division I Fighting Scotts.

“It's very challenging to move up a weight class in college wrestling,” said Edinboro head coach Tim Flynn. “But he's been wrestling really well. He's certainly good enough to move up a weight class, and he's got some wins under his belt. He's making that adjustment.”

DePalma is 18-9 overall, including 2-3 in Edinboro dual meet action. He's recorded three pins, one technical fall and a team-high seven major decisions. In early season tournaments, DePalma was wrestling at 149. He even won the championship at that weight class in the University of Buffalo Invitational in November, beating Edinboro teammate Dave Habat in the championship match.

However, Habat beat DePalma in a wrestle-off (intra-squad competition to set the starting lineup), meaning Habat would be the starter at 149 in dual meet competition. Too good of a talent to not compete, DePalma moved up to 157 where he's competing against bigger, stronger athletes.

DePalma said earning a redshirt last year helped to prepare him for the rigors of the higher weight class this year.

Coming out of Jeannette, DePalma was heavily recruited by a number of big-time wrestling schools, including traditional power Edinboro. In his first season last year, he sat out while earning a redshirt, meaning he could practice with the team and even compete independently in open tournaments but not use a year of eligibility.

“I have a year of college wrestling under my belt. I got to complete at the college level without losing a year of eligibility. It was definitely a good decision,” he said.

DePalma said the local product has what it takes physically to compete at that class.

“I'd say I'm strongest on my feet and on top (while in referees' position),” said DePalma.

And one benefit of wrestling at the higher weight class is being able to “eat whatever I want,” said DePalma.

“I wasn't cutting too much to get down to 149, but now, I can consume as many calories as I want the day before a match or the day of a match,” he said. “I'm not running off weight as much.”

The biggest challenge ahead of him is mental.

“I've got to keep on improving the little things and keep learning how to be a better wrestler,” he said. “I need to take that next step, mentally . . . what I really need to work on is my mental game. That's the next step in my wrestling.”

Team-wise, Edinboro is 6-3. The team hosts Lock Haven this Saturday.

Cook, Coastal lose

Jeannette grad Kayla Cook scored five points but her Coastal Carolina University basketball team fell to 76-48 on Saturday. It was the second-straight loss for the Chanticleers, who fell to High Point 70-54 on Thursday. Cook is averaging 7.7 points and 19.1 minutes per game.

Coastal is now 7-9 overall and 2-4 in the Division I Big South Conference. The team visits Radford tonight for a conference game beginning at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast at goccusports.com.

Spino ready to return

Jeannette graduate Nick Spino will likely be back in action this weekend. The senior hurdler on the Seton Hill track and field team had to sit out last year with a medical redshirt after the medication he was taking for a routine sprained ankle hospitalized him with severe stomach ulcers. The Division II Griffins will compete in the Marietta Open on Saturday.

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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