Hempfield could emerge as top contender to Waynesburg’s throne on WPIAL Class AAA mats

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 | 6:47 PM

Is there any team in the WPIAL that can defeat No. 1-ranked Waynesburg?

Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine isn’t sure, but he hopes his team gets a chance later this season.

The Spartans are ranked No. 2 in the Tribune-Review preseason rankings, and DeAugustine feels a real battle is brewing for the second spot in the district.

“There are a lot of good teams in that next group,” said DeAugustine, who returned to coach the Spartans after spending two years at Norwin. “I would feel better if we had a better offseason and things would be back to normal.”

Hempfield shut down its athletic programs this week because of coronavirus cases. DeAugustine said Monday that the wrestling team has had no issues. Hempfield was supposed to open the season at the Hampton Duals on Saturday.

The Spartans, who were coached by Tom Dolde the past two seasons, had their season end at the hands of Waynesburg last year. The Raiders defeated the Spartans in the 2019 quarterfinals and 2020 semifinals.

DeAugustine coached at Hempfield for 15 seasons before going to Norwin and helping Kurtis Phipps win a state title.

Now, he returns and said it feels like he’s starting over.

The seniors were freshmen when he left. That was the year Hempfield defeated Seneca Valley to advance to the WPIAL semifinals but was forced to forfeit because one of its wrestlers was ineligible.

DeAugustine welcomes back three senior PIAA placewinners including state champion Ethan Berginc (113 pounds), heavyweight runner-up Isaiah Vance and fifth-place finisher Ty Linsenbigler (145).

“I’m back to see if I can help them become state champions,” DeAugustine said. “All three are working hard.”

Also back are junior Briar Priest (106), who was one win away from qualifying for the state tournament, sophomore Ethan Lebin (120), sophomore Lucas Kapusta (126), junior Nolan Daerr (132), senior Derek Choby (138), junior Cody Stepanik (182) and junior Daniel Beck (182).

Sophomore Elijah Binakonsky (182) was a junior high state champion in 2020.

“It’s been tough to get into a good rhythm,” DeAugustine said. “We’re doing the best we can. We’re wrestlers; we have the ability to adapt. We’re during a pretty god job”

One thing Hempfield is doing is practicing in the main gym, away from the wrestling room. They have two mats and have broken the team into two groups. The groups stay on their own mats.

“I’m trying to instill the work ethic and your philosophies into the room,” DeAugustine said. “That’s what we’re focusing on now. Making sure these guys understand what we’re trying to do.”

Hempfield is in a new section. The Spartans moved away from Section 1 with Kiski Area, Indiana and Franklin Regional. They are in Section 2-B with Greensburg Salem, Latrobe, McKeesport and Norwin. Section 2-A is Connellsville, Albert Gallatin, Belle Vernon, Thomas Jefferson, Baldwin and West Mifflin

“It was fun to compete against Kiski and Franklin Regional,” DeAugustine said. “But to get Connellsville and Thomas Jefferson and other teams, it’s going to be tough for us. I’ve always been a believer that I want to be in the toughest section. I don’t want to be in a weak section.”

He said facing Norwin, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford and Greensburg Salem gets his team ready.

“That competition helps us peak at the end of the year,” DeAugustine said.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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