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From the gridiron to the mat: South Fayette continues dominance

| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | for the Bridgeville Area News
South Fayette 138-pounder Shane Ging (top) attemps to pin Carlynton's Jay Stiegel during the Lions 68-12 win on Jan. 16, 2014, at Carlynton High School.
Randy Jarosz | for the Bridgeville Area News
South Fayette's Mike Carr mounts Carlynton's Logan Witwicki during their 132-pound match during the Lions 68-14 win on Jan. 16, 2014, at Carlynton High School.
Randy Jarosz | for the Bridgeville Area News
South Fayette's Scott Rzepecki attempts to roll Carlynton's Ryan Easterling over during their 126-pound match during the Lions 68-12 win on Jan. 16. 2014, at Carlynton High School,

South Fayette was riding high after the football team captured the PIAA state title on Dec. 15 in a 41-0 blowout of Imhotep Charter.

But just two days later, 12 members of the football team refocused as they got into the wrestling room to work towards their next goal: a return to the WPIAL team finals after a second-place finish in 2013.

“No one likes to finish in second,” senior 195-pounder Zach Walker said. “We as a team have it in the back of our minds we want to get back there.”

The wrestling team's start to the season was delayed a month – the team's first dual was on Jan. 2 – as the football team tore through the state playoffs. But the wait has been worth it as six of those wrestlers have already hit double-digits in the win column: 113-pound Jasper Wolfe (11-4) 132-pound Shane Ging (15-5) 145-pound Brett Beltz (12-1), 152-pound Grant Fetcher (15-0), 160-pound Jared Walker (15-0) and Zach Walker (12-1).

Mixed with the talents of non-football playing wrestlers 106-pound Andrew John (16-3), 132-pound Michael Carr (14-0), 138-pound Ben Previte (11-6) and 182-pound Rausaun Culberson (10-3), it is easy to see why the Lions are ranked as the No. 1 team in Class AA by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The hardest thing about returning to the mat from the football field was the difference in conditioning for the two sports.

“We started the last few weeks of football because we knew where we would be at weight-wise for wrestling,” Zach Walker said. “We didn't want to lose too much weight but we started maintaining our weight by eating healthy and stuff like that.”

Missing the preseason along with more than the first two weeks of the season was a blow to the team. But as the season moves along, the wrestlers are getting closer and closer to being in the desired condition.

“Conditioning between football and wrestling is totally different,” South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard said. “You can't get into shape over night. We are heading in the right direction.”

What has helped the team is the busy schedule it has faced in January. In additions to its section duals, the team competed in dual events at Valley and South Side Beaver – defeating Class AAA programs Ambridge, Bethel Park, Butler and Hampton during undefeated runs at both events.

“We really stepped up in practice during the Christmas break,” Fetchet said. “Then most important thing was getting on the mat. There is nothing better than having competition every day.”

Despite the hectic schedule, South Fayette has flexed its muscle and has gone 15-0. While he would prefer to have had more practice, Chaussard is pleased with his team's success.

“I would have to be nuts to say I wasn't pleased,” Chaussard said. “The guys were a little iffy coming off the football game in December. But they pulled it together.

“We are a veteran team. They have all wrestled before and been through the grind.”

Last week, the Lions wrapped up the No. 1 spot in Section 1-AA's “A” subsection with wins over Avella (55-9), Chartiers-Houston (58-15) and Carlynton (68-12). The busy week was capped off by an appearance at the Allegheny County Wrestling Tournament – results were unavailable at press time.

The Lions finished 5-0 in their subsection as they entered the Section 1 tournament. The event this week will be South Fayette's next step in reaching its ultimate goal – capturing the team's first WPIAL Class AA team title.

“That has been our goal from last February,” Chaussard said. “As soon as we lost to Burrell last year, we knew we wanted to return to the WPIAL finals and get these guys another shot.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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