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Ringgold grapplers an experienced bunch

| Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Ringgold freshman Douglas Gudenburr prevents Trinity junior Tristan Buxton from escaping during their first round WPIAL Class AAA wrestling tournament bout on February 28, 2013 at Norwin High School in North Huntingdon Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

While the Ringgold Rams high school wrestling team ended last season in a bit of a slump – they finished out the season on an 0-4 skid in dual meets and qualified only four wrestlers for the WPIAL tournament – coach Bob Bove has reason to be optimistic for the 2013-2014 season.

“We return 12 starters from a 12-9 team last year, and last season I really felt we were better than our record,” Bove said. “We were 12-5 when we lost to Canon-Mac in the playoffs and that started a kind of downward spiral. I don't know if the kids weren't into it as much because the team race was over or what, but I believe we are certainly going to correct that issue and have an even better season this year.”

After opening up the season 4-4, Ringgold ripped off six consecutive victories before Belle Vernon Area broke its win streak in a match to decide second place in the section. The Rams opened up the WPIAL Playoffs with a 45-31 win over Pittsburgh Central Catholic, but then fell to eventual WPIAL and PIAA Champion, Canon-McMillan, triggering their season-ending slide.

Bove hopes that this year's team will build off of last year's positives – mainly a third-place section finish and winning record, but this time follow through to the end of the season.

The Rams certainly have experience on their side; six returning starting members finished with a winning record and five finished with over 20 victories.

Leading the way for the Rams will be their four returning WPIAL qualifiers: sophomore Doug Gudenburr, junior Jake Gerard and seniors Kenny Tarpley and Devin Fallenstein.

According to Bove, both Tarpley and Fallenstein will remain at the same weights that they wrestled as juniors for their senior seasons, and he expects big things from the pair, 132 pounds and 160 pounds, respectively.

Fallenstein won a section title last season and was the fifth seed at the WPIAL tournament, but went 1-2 and failed to advance to the PIAA tournament in Hershey. Tarpley finished fourth in the section and went 2-2 at the WPIAL tournament.

In WPIALWrestling.net's preseason rankings, Fallenstein is ranked fifth and Tarpley sixth in their respective weights.

Both enter the season within striking distance of the 100-win club. Fallenstein currently has recorded 96 victories in his high school career, while Tarpley sits at 73.

“Honestly I'm surprised Fallenstein hasn't gone to the state tournament yet,” Bove said. “I definitely think that this is his year. He is certainly good enough, he just needs to put together a solid WPIAL tournament. Tarpley is another guy who has been around a while and beaten some really good competition. I expect them both to lead the team with big seasons.”

Gudenburr will bump up from 106, where he was a section runner-up last season, to 113 this year.

Gerard makes the jump from 126 to 138. Both wrestlers went 1-2 at the WPIAL Championships last season. In WPIALWrestling.net's preseason rankings, Gudenburr is ranked ninth and Gerard fifth, albeit both at last season's weight.

“Dougie went 33-6 last season and I feel that he has a shot to make the trip to Hershey,” Bove said. “He had a tremendous freshman season and he is only going to get better. Gerard is another tough one who has beaten wrestlers who have wrestled at the state tournament. I honestly feel that we have a lot of solid, competitive kids who could really turn it on, but if I had to guess I would say our best chances lay with those four. Individually and as a team, we are hoping to have a very successful year.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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