Confidence soars for Pine-Richland wrestler after strong Powerade showing

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Sunday, January 9, 2022 | 11:01 AM


A major focus for Kelin Laffey lately has been the mental side of wrestling.

He has received advice and motivation from the Pine-Richland coaches on believing in himself and his abilities every time he steps onto the mat.

Now, he has some tangible evidence to build confidence going into the new year.

Laffey, a Pitt recruit, placed third at 152 pounds at the prestigious Powerade Tournament on Dec. 29-30 at Canon-McMillan and did so by grinding through the consolation bracket.

He lost to eventual champion Joe Sealey of Wyoming Seminary in a 7-5 decision in the quarterfinals, but rebounded to win four matches the next day to take earn a place on the podium.

“I thought I wrestled pretty well,” Laffey said. “They said it was one of the toughest Powerades ever with a lot of nationally ranked teams coming in, so to finish third was pretty good.”

Laffey won his first two matches of the tournament, earning a first-period pin against Montoursville’s Josiah Schans and an 8-2 decision over Christopher Earnest of Wadsworth (Ohio).

Then he faced Sealey, who was seeded second in the tournament and is ranked in the top 10 nationally. Laffey was unsure how he’d match up with Sealey but ended up pushing him before falling in a 7-5 decision.

“In the first minute, I was in on three shots on him but just couldn’t finish,” Laffey said. “His pace was really high, and I didn’t think I could compete with his pace, so I started to tie up and slow him down. That’s when he started to put up points on me because I wasn’t wrestling like I was in the first minute.

“I was down 6-1, and that’s when I decided I had to start pushing my pace when there was about a minute left in the second period. I started to put up some points in the third period. With about a minute and 30 seconds left, I thought I had a chance to turn him, but we went out of bounds and I let him up. Then I just ran out of time. I shouldn’t have went off my game to start in the first and second period.”

The match was an example that showed Laffey he needs to believe in himself going into every match.

He took that into Day 2, which started with facing future Pitt teammate Jack Pletcher of Latrobe. He ended up scoring a third-period pin to advance.

“Jack Pletcher is very good, so I was really nervous going into that match, but I felt like I pushed the pace on him a lot,” Laffey said. “I just waited for him to make a mistake. He tried to throw me, and I caught him on his back.”

After defeating Pletcher, Laffey felt a sense of relief and continued to rack up wins. He had a 6-2 decision over Bishop McDevitt’s Andrew Christie and received an injury forfeit from Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington.

That set up the third-place match with Notre Dame Green Pond’s Evan Maag. Laffey won via a 12-5 decision.

“Once I got to that match, I wasn’t that nervous because I had already placed, and I wasn’t even supposed to place because I wasn’t seeded or anything, so I just went out and had fun with it,” Laffey said. “I got to my attacks and pushed the pace. I wasn’t trying to hang on to a 1-0 lead or anything like that. I wanted to continue to put up points.”

Needless to say, the strong finish at Powerade has given a boost to Laffey. He’ll look to continue that into Pine-Richland’s upcoming dual meets and into the individual postseason.

“I didn’t place my sophomore year at Powerade and didn’t even make a blood round my freshman year, so to see that growth from freshman year to senior year and be able to place up there that high is going to make me practice harder,” Laffey said. “I now know I have a chance to place pretty high in the state. That’s the ultimate goal. This third-place finish gives me a lot of confidence. I don’t think I’ll face a wrestler ranked as high in the country as Sealey again and I wrestled him pretty good.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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