Pine-Richland wrestlers shift focus to individual postseason success

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Sunday, February 18, 2018 | 11:15 PM


On Saturday, the WPIAL Class AAA individual postseason will begin for the Pine-Richland wrestling team as it heads to Fox Chapel to for the Section 3-AAA championships.

In the meantime, coach Ben Rings and his Rams (4-5) have shifted their focus to preparing each wrestler in order to maximize success. While Rings said he believes he has more than a few athletes who should be poised to finish strong in the section tournament, he also has been around the mat long enough to know anything can happen.

“I knew this was going to be a building year for us as a team, for sure, as far as getting the young guys some experience and getting them exposed to some good competition,” Rings said. “Obviously, now, we're just focusing on individuals coming up here for sections. We'll be training hard the next week and getting everybody prepared.

“You never know what's going to happen. It's not even my more experienced wrestlers. I feel that anybody in my lineup can get to WPIALs. You just have to go out there and have a great tournament.”

Among the wrestlers who appear to be positioned for success in the Section 3-AAA tournament are two of the Rams' youngest athletes: freshman Cole Spencer and sophomore Nate Lukez. Spencer will compete in the 152-pound division, and Lukez will attempt to improve upon his third-place finish at last year's section tournament in the 120-pound class.

“Cole only has two losses on the season. Both were from the Powerade tournament,” Rings said. “Lukez has four losses. Two of those were from Powerade to top wrestlers in the area.

“Nate has a pretty stacked bracket, but there's opportunities for him and Cole to do well and even move on to the next level from there. They've got to have good tournaments, grind hard and just stick to it.”

In addition to the promising youngsters, Pine-Richland's three seniors, Ben Salas (145), John Folmer (220) and Aaron Bailey (126), will try to extend their postseasons.

“They've all been developing throughout the season,” Rings said. “They'll have a chance at surprising some people, for sure. I think anybody in our lineup has a chance to be a WPIAL qualifier.

“No matter what their record is during the season, if you prepare and have a good tournament and somebody makes a mistake, next thing you know, you could be placing at the top.”

The Section 3-AAA tournament will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Fox Chapel.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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