Though he has excelled since his freshman year as an undersized heavyweight, Kiski Area senior Shane Kuhn, a two-time PIAA placewinner, questioned the Cavalier coaching staff's plan to move his younger brother, 184-pound sophomore Chad Kuhn, up to the 220-pound weight class as the 2013-14 season approached, and Chad had concerns, too.
Both Shane and Chad Kuhn trusted the standard wrestling logic: Giving up weight provides opponents an advantage.
Both now are prime case studies in how to thrive against bulkier opposition.
Like his elder sibling, Chad Kuhn is among the WPIAL's best big boys, and he's succeeding with a lanky 6-foot-2 frame that might cause opponents to wonder why he's not competing in the 182- or 195-pound weight class.
“I think they think I'm just a skinny guy they threw in there to fill in a spot, but that's not the case at all,” said Kuhn, who plans to compete at 220 in the postseason.
The owner of a 19-2 record with seven pins, he will look to claim his first title at the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association Wrestling Tournament, which begins Friday and continues Saturday at Franklin Regional.
“I have way more confidence now as a sophomore,” said Kuhn, who went 1-2 in the tournament as a 160-pounder last season. “I think the practice partners I have definitely help me; I get way more confidence from working with Shane and (sophomore 195-pounder) Tyler (Worthing). … The pace is just way faster. Tyler's explosiveness is like no other. And Shane's strength really helps me, because that's how most of the heavyweights wrestle.”
His freshman season left him with a muddled understanding of his potential. He weighed 160 pounds but wrestled at 160, 170 and 182 and finished the season 7-7.
Kiski Area coach Chuck Tursky watched Shane Kuhn become a PIAA Class AAA placewinner as a 210-pound sophomore in a weight class that allows up to 285 pounds, and the younger brother showed similar logic-defying potential during the preseason. But Shane Kuhn was skeptical.
“At first, we thought it'd be a terrible idea and wouldn't work out, but the coaches thought 220 would fit with his style,” Shane Kuhn said. “It just shows why the coaches make the decisions.”
Chad Kuhn opened the season with a title at Gateway's Eastern Area tournament.
“Going into the first tournament, I was actually really nervous, because I didn't know how it'd go,” Chad Kuhn said. “After that, I was way more confident.”
Shane Kuhn believes additional self-assurance is what his brother needs to achieve even more.
“I remember getting nervous to wrestle guys so big,” Shane Kuhn said. “And that's what he's had problems with in some matches too this year; that's why some of them are so close. He gets nervous and lets these big guys get in his head.”
Intense sessions between the brothers at practice help Chad Kuhn learn to cope with and adjust to his size difference. Shane Kuhn, at 6-3 and about 230 pounds, possesses as much power as any opponent Chad likely will face.
“When we wrestle live, I try my hardest to get points, but it doesn't happen much,” said Chad Kuhn, who has reversed Shane once and has never taken him down.
Said Shane Kuhn: “Last year and in the past, I could just beat up on him. This year, I actually have to put in some effort to make sure I still win.”
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