Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant wrestlers ready for Class AA sectionals

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 11:14 p.m.

The team portion of the wrestling season has come and gone, and now it's time for individual athletes to step up and shine.

For Class AA wrestlers, the road to individual glory begins Saturday with the WPIAL sectional tournaments.

The wrestlers at Southmoreland and Mt. Pleasant will be competing in the 2-AA Sectionals at Charleroi. The top five finishers from each weight class will advance to the WPIAL Class AA Championships on Feb. 21-22 at Chartiers Valley.

“Now we can see individually where each wrestler is at,” Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Long said. “We've still got some work to do in the room. They have to be ready for better competition, so they have to work hard, be mentally tough and have a good work ethic.”

For the Vikings, it was indeed a tough season in terms of team competition, as forfeits cost the team in a number of matches. However, Mt. Pleasant will be able to send eight wrestlers to sectionals.

“I would think that out of the eight, probably four or five will advance,” Long said.

Four of Mt. Pleasant's wrestlers have had success at the sectional tournament in the past.

• Sophomore Mike Novak won the 120-pound section title last season and finished fourth at WPIALs. He'll wrestle at 126 this season.

• Junior Ethan Charlesworth will wrestle at 152 pounds after winning the section title at that weight last season. He went on to take fifth at WPIALs.

• Junior Austin Mears will wrestle at 145 pounds after finishing second at sectionals and fourth at WPIALs in the same weight class a year ago.

• Sophomore Josh Lind will be at 220, where he finished fourth at sectionals and fourth at WPIALs last season.

“It's individuals, so it's how well each wrestler does, not how well a team does with forfeits,” Long said.

While the Vikings struggled in team competition. Southmoreland earned a trip to the WPIAL Class AA team playoffs. In addition to the postseason and some late-season tournaments, the Scotties have seen plenty of competition in recent weeks.

“This year, we really didn't have a break,” Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said. “Last year, we had a big lull, and we hammered on them (in practice) because we didn't have a lot of competition. In the past week, our guys have been on the mat eight times. I think the guys are beat up a little bit, so we just want to get healthy, and we'll have a more relaxed atmosphere in the room. We just want to sharpen the skills.”

Shaw is hoping to have 12 wrestlers competing at sectionals.

“Realistically, if we are sending 12, I think we can get half (into the next round),” Shaw said.

Three Southmoreland wrestlers have had success at this level in the past.

• Junior Austin Griffiths won the section title, was the WPIAL runner-up and took fifth at states at 106 last season. He'll be wrestling at 113 this year.

• Sophomore Jacob Beistel also won the section title and was a WPIAL runner-up. He wrestled at heavyweight last year, and will do so again this season.

• Sophomore Evan Myers finished fourth at sectionals and took sixth at WPIALs last season at 120. He'll be competing at 132 this season.

After a trip to the WPIAL playoffs, Shaw is hoping his wrestlers can add more success to an already fruitful season.

“We kind of got wrapped up in the team playoffs and that was exciting for the kids,” Shaw said. “Now, we have to focus on individuals and what they are doing well and help them get better on their weak areas. It's a challenge and it's exciting.”

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