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Olympic wrestling champ Angle visits Pine-Richland

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Rachel Hathhorn | For the Pine Creek Journal
Pine-Richland wrestling coach and life skills teacher Ben Rings looks on as Kurt Angle speaks to students and wrestlers in the Pine-Richland wrestling room last week.

For budding athletes, there is no cooler thing than to learn from an iconic professional in your sport.

Seeing just how Calvin Johnson runs a route or how LeBron James creates space to shoot is something any budding athlete would relish. At Pine-Richland last week, the wrestling team got a rare opportunity to learn from Olympic gold medalist and three-time NCAA champion Kurt Angle.

Angle came to visit the team because of a feature that ran in People magazine on life-skills teacher and assistant wrestling coach Ben Rings.

Rings is known as an inspiration because of his work with special-needs students and his helping to provide them with unique opportunities to build relationships.

He runs Pine-Richland's Best Buddies wrestling program, which gives special-needs students a chance to get on the mat.

Angle's visited a group of Best Buddies wrestlers and the varsity team, in part, to help the bonding process. He also delivered a message about how he was able to succeed even though he was not the biggest, strongest or fastest.

One wrestlers who learned from the experience was the up-and-coming Brendan Burnham.

“Kurt spoke about how he bettered himself through wrestling and how he had to work to be the best,” Burnham said. “What I took away was that he won more with heart and passion, because you can't always win with being strong or fast.

“It was cool how he told us about how wrestling taught him things that stuck with him his whole life.”

Angle took some time after he spoke to show the wrestlers his signature duck-under move that served him so well in several big matches.

“It was awesome for the kids to see someone who had the success Kurt had and to have him reinforce the same things we are teaching them,” Rings said. “It was nice to see someone who had the success Kurt had share that experience. He showed the kids some things we will work on ASAP.”

Angle, one of the stars of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, learned of Rings and the Best Buddies wrestling program and through TNA promoter Dixie Carter. Carter set up the meeting and also extended an invitation to have the Pine-Richland wrestlers attend a live TNA event at Indiana University (Pa.).

Angle was glad to take the time and share his experience.

“Wrestling teaches you about life,” Angle said. “I've learned more about my losses than my wins.”

He also spoke highly of Rings.

“Ben is not just a teacher or coach; he's a humanitarian,” Angle said. “You only meet these kinds of people once or twice in your life. Coach Rings is not in it for the fame. People magazine chose to recognize him. He's a special person.”

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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