Pine-Richland wrestlers primed for season
Last season was a successful one for the Pine-Richland wrestling team. A sixth-place team finish at the Allegheny County Wrestling Tournament as well as a team playoff appearance marked a season that will be difficult to top. But Rams coach Steve Joseph intends to try.
Gone are talents who brought home some serious hardware last season (Ben Balish, Andrew Wood and Austin Killian), but an influx of youth is ready to step in and step up.
“The kids' goal is to make states, and they know it will take a lot of hard work,” Joseph said. “Last year was the first time we made the team playoffs (since I got here six-years ago), and we want to get into the playoffs and win our first (round) match. We want to surpass the sixth-place finish at counties.
“Even if we don't reach every goal, we will get better as we try.”
With the majority of the bigger-name starters graduating last year, the team will begin with seniors Matt Graff and Sam Kyle. Joseph said he expects them to lead the team.
“Sam is the kind of kid who just loves to wrestle,” Joseph said. “He will try to help us out wherever we need. We will move him around to try to fill out the lineup.”
Joseph said Graff and Kyle are likely candidates to be named captain(s).
Brennan Burnham is a returning WPIAL qualifier who should fit in at the 152- or 160-pound weight class, and Joseph hopes Davis Kelly can qualify based on a solid freshman season last year. Kelly will be wrestling around 132.
Sophomore Mike Geyer had a winning record as a freshman, and he is one of the athletes who figures to pick up some of the slack left by last year's seniors.
“We have a younger team, but we look like a strong team,” Joseph said. “We put the feelers out with a lot of the football players to see if any of them had an interest if coming out for the team. If some of them stick with it, that would help us field a full team for the first time in six years.”
Joseph also had two wrestlers move in from out of state, so he is hopeful Nick Byrd (at 170 pounds) and Connor Rienke (106) can help out.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.