Ringgold wrestlers looking for respect

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 12:54 p.m.

When it comes to wrestling rankings, Ringgold could be the Rodney Dangerfield of the WPIAL - the Rams get no respect.

Despite accumulating some impressive records, not a single Rams wrestler has cracked the top-five in several WPIAL Class AAA individual rankings.

“I'm looking at rankings too and seeing kids ranked ahead of us who we beat, so I don't put a lot of credence into (the rankings), to say the least,” Bove said. “You don't get seeded or go to states based on your ranking. If that's something the seeding committee used, I'd be worried, but they don't.”

A handful of Ringgold wrestlers could improve their esteem in the upcoming Section 2-AAA individual tournament Feb. 23 at Baldwin. That goes particularly for 160-pound junior Devin Fallenstein (29-3).

Fallenstein won the section title last year at 152 pounds before finishing a disappointing 1-2 at the WPIAL Class AAA championships. Both defeats were one-point decisions.

“I think the biggest instance of a kid that doesn't get any respect is Devin,” Bove said. “We just need him to make that next step. He has to slam the door on those kids that are on the same level. He's not a weightlifter, but he's got natural strength and he doesn't always believe in that.”

Fallenstein, who's won 90 matches in his varsity career, has held his own against several of the WPIAL's 160-pound elite this season. He defeated Belle Vernon Area's Austin Bell by 5-1 decision while losing a 4-2 heartbreaker to Greensburg Salem's Zach Voytek, a WPIAL silver medalist last year.

Voytek (34-1) and Bell (27-5) are ranked second and third respectively by the Tribune Review Media Service.

“You can have anybody ranked ahead or below and it just depends on the day … upsets can happen,” Fallenstein said. “There are things like techniques and conditioning I've developed this year. It's just a learning process and you have to learn to use that drive and push yourself. To beat those (upper-tier) guys, you have to wrestle a perfect match.”

Fallenstein's other losses, both two-point decisions to Connellsville's Tommy Provance and Canon McMillan's Sammy Minor, occurred after he was leading.

Bove said it's not difficult to see a pattern with Fallenstein.

“He's an exceptional athlete but I think he has trouble realizing that,” Bove said. “He doesn't have that confidence, and we're trying to instill that as a coaching staff. When you go against kids near the top, it becomes a mental game.”

Fallenstein should claim the second seed at sectionals with Provance the likely favorite. The top five finishers in each weight class will advance to the WPIAL Class AAA/Southwest Regional championships Feb. 28 through March 2.

Only the top three finishers there will move on to the PIAA tournament.

“It shows that there are some tough guys ranked pretty high, and if you can beat those guys, you have a pretty good chance moving on through WPIALs and states,” Fallenstein said. “My goal is to make it to the state tournament. It's not going to be an easy task, but it's doable. When individuals come, that's when you have to prove it.”

Ringgold boasts a handful of other 20-win wrestlers who could make waves this postseason: Freshman 106-pounder Doug Gudenburr (29-4), sophomore 126-pounder Jake Gerard (24-7) who had 31 wins last year, junior 145-pounder Brandon Heinzelman (25-7) and sophomore heavyweight Taylor Bass (20-14).

Bass missed most of last season with a broken leg.

“His record doesn't show it, but he's been close against a couple kids (ranked) up there, but he has to learn to finish,” Bove said of Bass. “If it comes to a strength match, even though he's young, he's going to win a lot of those.”

Junior Kenny Tarpley, who was just medically cleared last week after suffering neck and back injuries earlier this season, is a wildcard at 132 pounds.

“We've got three pretty good shots for the state tournament but we're not saying we've got somebody who's definitely going; that doesn't happen to us much,” Bove said. “That's a testament to how good wrestling is in this area.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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