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Seton Hill wrestling looking to capitalize on early success

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

When Brian Tucker took over the Seton Hill wrestling program, he knew there would be ups and downs.

With just 13 wrestlers on the roster and having to fill out a 10-weight-class starting lineup, the challenges were obvious. Having to compete against teams with tremendously more depth is the norm, along with a revolving lineup card.

But, he implemented change — and a new culture — from Day 1. He wasn't looking for a quick fix but rather a long-term solution.

Consistently winning programs can take years to build. However, if the first-year coach's season has shown anything, it's that Tucker and his Griffins are laying the foundation for future success — and they aren't to be taken lightly any more.

Seton Hill got a taste of that success in late January after an eye-opening upset of then-No. 8 West Liberty. It was a signature win for a program striving to form its own identity.

“That was a huge night for our program,” Tucker said. “The guys continued to work hard through a lot of adversity, and it came together for them against a really good West Liberty team. We've put them in different positions all year, and they've been resilient. It all came together.”

The Griffins (7-12) could have a drastically different overall record had a few individual matches ended differently. Seton Hill has dropped three matches by a combined five points. In addition, the team wrestled close in losses to Division II powers Gannon and Mercyhurst.

“Overall, it's been a good season so far,” Tucker said. “There have been a lot of positives and negatives. We've had some big wins and some really close loses. It's part of the process. Our lack of depth right now is the biggest thing. It really limits what we can do in matches as far as matchups, etc. These are the first steps to building something here. But this group wrestles hard and they're putting in the work. There's been a lot of improvement.”

Seton Hill has been headlined by two local graduates — seniors Mike Grant (Greensburg Salem) and Zach Benzio (Connellsville).

“Those two have really been building blocks for us,” Tucker said. “They've both done really well, and we're looking for both of them to make some waves going into the regional tournament and hopefully qualify for nationals.”

Tucker knows both of their successes can only help the program. One major advantage Seton Hill has is being right in the heart of WPIAL wrestling country. Having two local kids enjoying success on the college level is a huge boost for recruiting.

“We're doing very well recruiting this year,” Tucker said. “There's so much talent in the high schools around here. We really want to get kids here and show them how much Seton Hill has to offer, not only wrestling-wise but academically. This is a great, very attractive university and as a program we're just getting started. It's going to be very exciting around here in the future.”

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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