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Norwin wrestling counts on experienced underclassmen

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Gary Bills | For the Norwin Star
Norwin wrestler Drew Phipps (right) competes during the Section 1-AAA tournament Feb. 23, 2013, at Gateway High School.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Ryan Hardaway (top) ties up with Norwin's Jake Friedhof in their 120-pound bout during the opening round of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament at Franklin Regional in Murrysville on January 11, 2013. Hardaway won by a 16-1 technical fall. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

The Norwin wrestling team finds itself with a mix of experience and inexperience heading into the 2013-14 season.

Because of the graduation of eight seniors, the Knights will need to fill several holes in their starting lineup. But many of the underclassmen who return are experienced in their own right.

“Our class sizes have been getting bigger, so (replacing graduated seniors) is easier,” coach Todd Schuchert said. “We have a good group of seniors this year that need to step it up and make a name for themselves. A lot of kids that started last year have to take the next step and be an elite wrestler in our section. The kids that didn't start last year have to step up and take their role on the team.”

The most difficult wrestler for Norwin to replace will be Heath Coles, who won his second straight WPIAL championship last year at 152 pounds before coming in fourth place at the PIAA championships. Graduated seniors Rusty Casteel, Colin Dalrymple, Zach Guttshall and Joel Pezze also wrestled at the WPIAL tournament.

Schuchert is counting on sophomore Drew Phipps to take a major step forward in 2013-14. Phipps had a banner freshman season, going 37-8, winning the Section 1-AAA title and placing third in the WPIAL at 182 pounds, earning a spot in the PIAA tournament.

Phipps followed up his strong high school season campaign by winning a title at the National High School Coaches Association nationals in April and took fourth at the Super 32 Challenge in October in Greensboro, N.C.

“The state tournament is a different animal, and being able to go up there and go through that routine of getting there a day early, going through the workouts and being down on the floor will pay dividends, I think, for him this year as he goes up and sets his goals a little higher,” Schuchert said. “(With) most freshmen, their goal is to maybe make it to the WPIAL tournament or place there. I think he took it a step farther in making it to the state tournament, so this year he could set his goals a little higher of getting on the podium and maybe getting a little higher on the podium.”

Junior Kevin Miller, who went 27-10 last season and took fourth place in the WPIAL at 106 pounds, is also expected to take another step forward this season, Schuchert said. So are seniors Jake Friedhof and Jon Twele. Friedhof wrestled at the WPIAL tournament after taking fifth place in the section at 120 pounds.

“I think he really started to come on at the end of last year. He's a tough-nosed kid, and I think that's going to pay off for him this year.”

With so many spots open in the lineup, Schuchert expected a lot of competition to fill some of the vacancies.

The wrestlers prepared themselves in the offseason by taking part in a lot of weight training.

I think you've got to wrestle to get in wrestling shape, so we spent a lot of time in the weight room,” Schuchert said. “A lot of our kids got a lot bigger, put on a lot of weight. And it's the right kind of weight. A lot of wrestlers will kind of get big and then try and suck down towards the end of the year. Our goal is not to try and get too big, actually lift and put on some good pounds.”

Norwin will begin its season this weekend at the Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament at Gateway High School. The Knights will open section play with a home match at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 against Latrobe.

The Knights will compete for one of two automatic WPIAL team playoff berths in a subsection that also includes Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Indiana, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford. The third-place team from the subsection also has a chance to advance to the team playoffs.

“We've just got to go out and wrestle our best every match because when it comes down to it, there's going to be a team or two staying home that's a really good team,” Schuchert said. “We don't want that to be us, so I think right out of the gate, it's important that we show up to wrestle.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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