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Penn-Trafford wrestling banks on depth, experience

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn Trafford's Devin Austin ties up with Canon McMillan's William Pihiou during their 152-lb match in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships at Norwin High School on March 01, 2013.
Penn Trafford's Mike Risnear battles Butler Area's Cody Houston during their 132-lb match in the consolation round of the WPIAL Class AAA Individual Wrestling Championships at Norwin High School on March 01, 2013. Risnear won by a 11-0 major decision. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

The Penn-Trafford wrestling team enters the 2013-14 season with depth in both the low and high weight classes.

But the Warriors' biggest strength might lie in the middle.

Penn-Trafford will begin its season this weekend at the Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament looking to build off a 2012-13 season that ended with a strong team performance at the Penn State Fayette Duals, followed with a good individual season.

“We'd like to make the team playoffs, and all the kids made their individual goals already,” coach Rich Ginther said. “They've all got some good expectations and good goals, and we'll see how things pan out. But right now, they're working their tails off and looking really sharp in the room. I like what I'm seeing so far.”

Penn-Trafford must fill some holes in its lineup this season, as several seniors graduated, including WPIAL qualifiers Casey McGowan and Will Palarino.

“It's tough to replace any one individual,” Ginther said. “But as far as the openings on the team, I'm seeing some great competition this first week in the room. The first week and a half of practice has been really good. I was really excited with the way the guys were training in the offseason and preseason and heading into the start of the regular season. Their intensity level's really high, they're working hard (and) they're going hard.”

The Warriors will be led by junior Devin Austin, who finished third in the Section 1-AAA tournament at 152 pounds and won three matches at the WPIAL tournament, coming up just shy of a bid to the PIAA tournament.

“Devin ended on a good note, but a little bit of a sour note (with) that taste of just missing the state tournament,” Ginther said. “That's always good motivation.”

Austin, whom Ginther expects will wrestle at 160 pounds, will be joined in the middle of the Penn-Trafford lineup by two other wrestlers with WPIAL tournament experience: junior Mike Risnear at 138 pounds and senior Jack McGillick at 182 pounds.

“Those three guys right there (Austin, McGillick and Risnear) are going to be the team leaders,” Ginther said. “We have a lot of young guys.”

Freshman Cam Coy, coming off a strong junior wrestling career, is expected to wrestle at 132 pounds. Other likely starters include freshman Nick Kazousky at 106 pounds, junior Roman Orange at 113 pounds, junior Dom Zona at 120 pounds, junior Tyler Hadad at 126 pounds, sophomore Matt Shirey at 170 pounds and freshman Matt McGillick at 195 pounds.

Ginther said several wrestlers were competing for spots at 145 and 152 pounds, as well as 220 pounds and heavyweight.

“We have a little bit of depth up high and down low, which is good,” he said. “You need depth down low, (but) we have a little bit of depth up high.”

After this weekend's Eastern Area tournament, which will take place at Gateway High School, Penn-Trafford will begin section play against Indiana at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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

“We're right in the meat grinder,” Ginther said. “In my opinion, (it's) by far the toughest section in the WPIAL, and we're right in the middle of all of that. We'll be battling to make a playoff spot, and I think we're capable of doing it.”

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

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