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Armstrong County native Knepshield aims for national prep championship

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

While his friends from back home fine-tune for this week's WPIAL Class AA individual wrestling championships, Addison Knepshield will finalize his plans for the National Prep Championships.

Knepshield, a Manor Township native who grew up competing for Kittanning's youth program, is one of numerous Blair Academy (N.J.) wrestlers with favorable odds of at least reaching the finals of the tournament, which begins Friday at Lehigh University. A contender in the 182-pound weight class, he hopes to add to the remarkable reputation of his boarding school, which, according to multiple publications' rankings, boasts the country's top wrestling program.

Coincidentally, the foe who might stand in Knepshield's way of a first title is a fellow Pennsylvanian: Wyoming Seminary senior Eric Morris. A Harvard recruit, Morris is considered the No. 1 182-pounder in the country.

“You can't go upper-body with him; he's a strong guy,” said Knepshield, who lost to Morris, 6-1, in the Beast of the East tournament in December. “I have to do the smart things and wrestle my match, not his.”

Knepshield (25-6), a student at Blair Academy since his sophomore year, placed fourth at 171 in the national prep tournament in 2011. A season ago, he made the quarterfinals of the 170-pound weight class, where he lost in overtime. A disqualification in his first consolation bout cost him an opportunity to medal.

One thing that will not clutter Knepshield's mind this week is concern about his college destination. He narrowed his choices to Penn and Virginia early in the season — both schools showed interest in him as a wrestler — but remained undecided about which to attend until he visited Virginia on Feb. 3.

“I knew immediately when I went down that I'd commit there,” said Knepshield, who delivered his verbal promise Feb. 9; he intends to sign his letter of intent in April. “I kind of fell in love with it. It's a great atmosphere. I liked the coaches. And it just feels like a great place for major college sports.”

Before he gradutes, Knepshield wants to add his name to the wall of national champions that Blair Academy maintains. His coach, Charles Danhof, considers him plenty capable, particularly because of his ability to adjust when he gets rematches with opponents.

“As a student and as a wrestler, Addison is one of those kids who is pretty sharp, and by sharp I mean he gets things, he picks up on things,” said Danhof, who served as Knepshield's sophomore-year English teacher.

And if the result remains the same, Knepshield can still find some solace in the fact that he's part of Pennsylvania's collection of standout light heavyweights; he appeared in Intermat's national rankings in December.

Several organizations' current rankings for the 182-pound and 195-pound weight classes include Morris, Burrell senior Dakota DesLauriers (Mercyhurst), Kiski Area senior Matt McCutcheon (Penn State), Norristown's Brett Harner (Princeton), among others.

“I actually think it's kind of cool,” said Knepshield, who endured close losses to Morris, DesLauriers and Harner this season. “We all grew up wrestling each other. … I think it's just awesome.”

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