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Pine-Richland youth wrestlers win Road Warrior Tournament

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Pine Creek
The Pine-Richland Youth Wrestling team is, first row, Evan Johnson, Nick Worthington, Jackson Neff, Kelin Laffey, Cole Spencer, Anthony Ferraro, Luke Waltrip, Dominic Ferraro, Sam Neill, Aiden Vangura, Owen Schessler, Sam Heckert, Gren Neuer, Vaugn Spencer, Madison Neuer, Jeb Eastburn, Dylan DiNapoli and Shane Simpson. Row two: Wyatt DeBord, Nathan Loehr, Matt Wood, Jared Burrows, Ryan Geyer, Luke Meckler, Lance Bruno, Adam Castro, Liam Bailie, Levi Krebs, Max Heckert, Evan Castro, Jake Worthington, Bryce Kruljac, Seth Bolin and Ben Neill. Third row: Jeff Esswein, Nick Rivero, Tyler Ruddick, Ed Rivero, Shane Simpson, Gary Bolin and Mike Ferraro.

There is seldom a sweeter victory than the first championship for a team. The Pine-Richland Youth Wrestling Team found that out when it captured the North Hills Wrestling League Road Warriors series for the first time.

The league, which consists of teams from Shaler, North Hills, Hampton, Mars, Pine-Richland, North Allegheny and Avonworth, host tournaments during the season, and points are awarded and tallied. The league is made up of wrestlers in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“This is a nice league, there are 400 kids who participate,” said Pine-Richland coach Jeff Esswein, whose team also competes against schools from outside the league. “We hosted the year-ending tournament, which was just the local schools.

“The key to winning is participation. Mike Ferraro deserves the credit; he gets kids involved.”

Esswein said another important factor was getting the kids time to work out on the mat.

“The more time you put in, the better you get,” Esswein said. “The more participation the better, it's fun.”

Esswein has been involved with the team for 14 years and said the input, time and effort of the parent volunteers has made the program better.

“The kids have fun, and that feeds into the middle and high school programs,” Esswein said.

Recently, former North Hills league wrestler Brendan Burnham, a sophomore at Pine-Richland, took third in the WPIAL championship bracket.

Perhaps the next generation will enjoy similar success — Anthony Ferraro won the individual novice division title (for wrestlers who have one or two years of experience), and Kelin Laffey took first in the open division (for kids with more than two years of experience).

“I really like wrestling,” Ferraro said. “It is one of the toughest sports there is. You have to be confident and can't get mad (if things don't go your way).”

Ferraro's dad, Mike, said his son is proof of what hard work can get you.

“He doesn't have great athletic ability, but he is dedicated,” Mike Ferraro said. “He worked at it, and does his push-ups and sit-ups and chin-ups every night.”

Kelin said he likes the fact wrestling is a one-on-one affair.

“That makes it harder than team sports ,” he said. “It felt good to win my division. It was hard, but that just makes me want to work harder.”

Sam Neill earned an undefeated mark in the Novice Division Tournament Series.

Wrestlers placing high in the Open Division were Cole Spencer, who took third place; Jake Worthington, who took 11th; Luke Meckler and Tyler Ruddick, who shared 14th; and Ryan Geyer and Matt Wood, who shared 25th. In the Novice Division, Sam Neill took second; Dominic Ferraro took seventh; and Sam Heckert took 15th.

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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