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Griffiths aims high on wrestling mat

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 9:32 p.m.
Independent-Observer
Southmoreland sophomore wrestler Austin Griffiths. Paul Paterra | Independent-Observer

Southmoreland wrestler Austin Griffiths has a simple goal for his sophomore season — to do a little better than he did as a freshman.

That would be quite an accomplishment since he finished third in the state at 106 pounds as a ninth-grader.

“I want to win states,” Griffiths said during a break at a recent practice.

Ask first-year coach Ryan Shaw and he thinks his sophomore wrestler should be able to do just that, which would be something no other Southmoreland wrestler has ever done.

“The sky is the limit for Austin,” Shaw said. “There's no reason he can't win the state tournament.....He's done all the extras to get to where he needs to. We're not going to settle for anything less.”

He's off to a good start capturing the title in his weight class at the Chartiers-Houston Invitational this past weekend.

Griffiths, 16, was kind of a wunderkind on the mats during his freshman season.

He advanced to the WPIAL finals before falling to Valley's Pat Dewitt in the championship match. Griffiths also made it all the way to the semifinals in the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional tournament, placing third.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Griffiths said. “It wasn't much of a surprise after I put the work in. It was a lot of work to get there to do it.”

The success Griffiths realized in the 2011-12 season can go a long way toward this season.

“Hopefully, this time I do it the easy way, instead of losing one and having to win my way back,” Griffiths said, alluding to the fact that he actually lost his first match in the PIAA tournament in March. He had to win five successive matches to capture third place.

Those who determine state rankings consider Griffiths among the favorites to collect PIAA gold. PA Power Wrestling has him ranked number one in the state in Class AA at 106 pounds.

“I tell him right now he's got a big target on his back,” Shaw admitted. “Everybody's going to want a piece of him.”

This year's Southmoreland squad is quite young. Only one senior dots a roster loaded with sophomores and freshmen. That would seem to put Griffiths in a leadership role on the team.

“He leads by example just out there on the mat with all the extra work that he does,” Shaw said. “I'm not saying he can't be a vocal leader, but given the extra work and the work ethic he has in the room, he's absolutely a leader.”

What Griffiths does do for the team in each match is set the tone, since the wrestler at 106 pounds typically goes first.

“It's pretty important I'd say to make sure everybody else is ready to wrestle and that everybody kind of starts off on the right foot,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths did prepare a lot in the offseason for this season, practicing, attending clinics, lifting weights.

Then again, wrestling had been a part of his life for about a decade.

His father got him interested in wrestling at that early age.

“He's always been (into) sports,” Griffiths said. “He ended up telling me to pick a sport and I just happened to pick wrestling. We tried out, I ended up liking it, so we've stuck with it ever since.”

He's just hoping “sticking with it” can result in PIAA gold this season.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.

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