Young South Park wrestlers look to make impact at section championships
After a 0-6 Class AA Section 1A team season that fell short of expectations, South Park is among the WPIAL teams eager to hit the reset button.
The WPIAL individual wrestling section championships for Class AA will be Saturday, with the Section 1 and 2 tournaments starting at 10 a.m. at Chartiers Houston and Charleroi, respectively, and the Section 3 tournament will start at 11 a.m. at Avonworth.
“We get to this part of the season, and you feel like you're part of everything,” South Park coach Walt Karrenbauer said. “I've gotten more rejuvenated over the last couple of weeks looking at this part of the year because it is about the guys that have worked really hard, and they can start to show, ‘I'm one of the best and I'm there.' ”
With the focus now shifting to individual talents, plenty of attention will be paid to South Park and its three No. 1-ranked wrestlers: 152-pound sophomore Greg Bulsak (22-1), 138-pound sophomore Jake Wentzel (22-1), and 106-pound freshman Dallas Bulsak (16-4), Greg's cousin.
In last season's section championships, Greg Bulsak claimed the 126-pound title before doing the same at the WPIAL and regional level to reach the state tournament. Wentzel was the runner-up for the 132-pound section title and went on to place fifth at the WPIAL championships, fourth regionally and eighth at the state tournament.
Now with just nine members and only one upperclassman on the team — junior Nikolas Derenzo, who has missed most of the season with a concussion — the talented sophomores have acted like grizzled veterans this year.
“We lead by example,” Wentzel said. “We try to work hard just like everybody before us has. Greg (Bulsak) and I have been wrestling with each other since we were 5. We push each other pretty well.”
In preparation for Saturday's tournament, South Park has increased the intensity of its practices, replacing time that typically was spent on instruction with an extra portion of live wrestling.
“It's been pretty nice working hard, getting ready for the postseason,” Wentzel said. “All of us are working 110 percent.”
Much work also was done over the summer, long before the season started.
Greg Bulsak jumped weight classes in the offseason from 126 to 152 — and not entirely because of a growth spurt.
“Greg wrestled quite a bit and spent a lot of tme in the weight room,” Karrenabuer said. “He wasn't just a kid that gained weight and is wrestling that weight. He built his body up to that weight and carries it very well.”
Greg Bulsak has been leading by example as a de facto elder statesman this year, an example his cousin, Dallas, should have no problem following.
“Dallas is in the same position that Greg and (Wentzel) were last year,” Karrenbauer said. “People know who he is, just through the junior circuit.”
Although he thinks the top-ranked freshman's expectations for himself are pretty high, Karrenbauer hasn't pushed the issue leading up to the biggest tournament of his young career.
“I don't really press them on it,” Karrenbauer said. “It's just something that I choose not to do because I want their goals to be theirs and not mine.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.