Ringgold wrestlers embrace challenge
The Ringgold wrestling team has been in the situation before: back in the WPIAL playoffs but facing a daunting road ahead.
The Rams (7-8) face off against Plum (11-2) at 7:30 p.m. today in a WPIAL Class AAA preliminary round match at Chartiers Valley High School.
By beating Plum, however, the Rams' reward would be a first-round match at No. 2 seed and perennial contender Canon McMillan on Wednesday.
“We don't want to look past Plum, we think it's going to be a close match,” Bove said. “If we do win and have to go to Canon Mac, we embrace the challenge. No individual is going up there to lose.”
It's been the same bittersweet song for Bove's squad the past three years. The sweet: the Rams continue to earn playoff berths and defeat their preliminary round opponent. The bitter: the Rams, by virtue of their low seeding, are then eliminated by a highly-ranked powerhouse.
In 2011 and 2013, Ringgold soundly defeated its preliminary round opponent before getting trounced by Canon McMillan – the No. 1 seed and eventual WPIAL champion both years. In 2012, the Rams defeated Upper St. Clair in a pigtail match before falling to No. 2 seed Kiski Area, 41-27.
“It's fortunate and unfortunate at the same time,” Bove said. “It's good because we're getting a little more consistency by making the playoffs and winning matches, year after year. What we haven't been able to do is get to the next level.”
The Rams on Wednesday advanced to the WPIAL playoffs Wednesday by nipping Upper St. Clair, 27-25, in a fifth-place consolation match during the Section 2-AAA tournament.
“Not that we wrestled poorly, but we were a little flat since we had no school for two days last week and we didn't get any work in the room,” Bove said of the closer-than-expected result. “We haven't had a real, bad match this year. We were just giving up too many pinfalls at the beginning of the year.”
Record-wise, tonight's match against Plum might be a mismatch. But Bove said not to look too far into wins and losses. The Mustangs are coming off a fourth-place showing in the Section 3-AAA tournament and are led by 195-pounder Nate Turchick and 106-pounder Tony DiNinno. Both have lost just two matches all season.
The Mustangs also went 5-0 in their subsection.
Ringgold, Bove said, should have a full roster for tonight's match for the first time this season and have a healthy Doug Gudenburr (113 pounds) and Devin Fallenstein (170). Fallenstein is 21-1 and ranked No. 2 in his weight class by the Tribune Review, with Gudenburr (19-2) and 132-pounder Kenny Tarpley (25-2) having outstanding campaigns, along with juniors Gage Downer (138) and Taylor Bass (285).
“I know Plum has 11 dual meet victories, but we were also missing Dougie and Fallenstein for six matches and that's six matches we would've won, so we could very easily be at 11 wins,” Bove said. “They have some solid kids and a full lineup but we're not worried about the win totals.”
Assuming Ringgold advances, Bove hopes to write a new script in 2014. While Canon McMillan is still a favorite to meet No. 1 seed Franklin Regional in the finals, Bove said there are a few chinks in the Big Macs' armor.
“No disrespect to Canon McMillan, they're still good, but they're not as strong as they've been the past couple years,” Bove said. “As a coach, they're a program you want to try to catch, so it's good to wrestle them.
“The way I see it, if we're wrestling Canon Mac on Wednesday, we'll be pleased because it means we beat Plum.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.