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Southmoreland wrestling's new coach confident in underclassman-filled team

| Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, 11:40 p.m.
Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths (right) and Austin Bixler perform drills during a recent team practice. Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier

Being overlooked doesn't bother first-year Southmoreland wrestling coach Ryan Shaw.

Shaw has turned the negative talk into motivation.

“There are people saying, ‘You're going to finish fifth in your section' and ‘You're not going anywhere because you're a young team,' ” Shaw said. “I use that as bulletin board material. I think we are going to surprise a lot of teams. I think we are going to be successful.”

Southmoreland has another new coach, a returning state medalist and a handful of experienced wrestlers, but for the most part, the Scotties' lineup will be loaded with underclassmen.

Shaw expects as many as seven freshmen could start.

“The biggest thing is, I've got to get the kids to believe in my philosophies,” Shaw said. “That's been the toughest thing. I'm their fourth head coach in four years. But I've liked what I've seen so far. The kids have really responded. They're really working well with my coaches and myself.”

Leading the way will be Austin Griffiths, a sophomore who won a bronze medal at the state tournament last year at 106 pounds.

Shaw said he thinks Griffiths will only get better.

“I've coached for 14 years, and he has one of the toughest work ethics I've seen,” Shaw said. “His workout is unbelievable. This kid has a will to win. He wants to be the first state champ in Southmoreland history. Austin does all the little extra things that will put him at the top of the podium. And I hope I can push him to that point. He's a kid that every coach wants to have.”

Shaw also hopes to have a healthy Dakota Datz. Datz, a senior, is recovering from an injury to his SC joint.

“He will be behind the 8-ball, but we're planning on having him for the first tournament of the year at Chartiers-Houston,” Shaw said. “He's in therapy and rehab, and he's been conditioning and lifting with his legs.”

Jake Beistel and Evan Myers, two freshmen, have already caught Shaw's eye.

Just 14 years old, Beistel captured the heavyweight class a few weeks back at a preseason tournament at Washington & Jefferson College.

“These guys have a bright future,” Shaw said. “I've coached for 14 years, but this will be my first at the high school, and I'm excited.

“I actually think a lot of teams will overlook us. Everyone knows that Yough is the favorite and that Mt. Pleasant will be second. That's what everybody is saying. We open with Mt. Pleasant, and we want to come into the match thinking we're the team to beat. I expect to come in and win right away.

“We're not going to use our youth as an excuse. We're going to go out and wrestle, and everything we do this year is going to benefit us for the next three or four years.”

Dave Stofcheck is a freelance writer.

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