Rumpler 2nd-place finish at states a boon for North Allegheny girls wrestling team

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Saturday, March 19, 2022 | 12:41 PM


North Allegheny didn’t have a girls wresting team two years ago, yet the Tigers saw a girl finish second in the state this winter.

The team’s success is a credit to the athletes, coach Dan Heckert said, but also shows how far the program has come and how far the sport can go.

“People have taken notice and see that this isn’t just some offshoot,” Heckert said. “These girls are legit wrestlers, and it’s a fun environment. We’re already hearing little rumblings about someone’s daughter who saw this and now wants to come out for the team. That’s exactly what we’ve been hoping for: that these girls’ success turns into more girls wanting to wrestle.”

Sophomore Leyna Rumpler became the first female medalist in North Allegheny wrestling history when the 148-pounder placed second March 13 in the state championship at Central Dauphin.

NA took eight wrestlers to Harrisburg for the championships and seven won matches. The only one who didn’t win was eliminated by an NA teammate in the first round of the consolation bracket.

Girls wrestling is not yet a PIAA-sanctioned sport, but organizers have held state championships since 1999. Heckert had taken individual wrestlers to the event in previous years but said having a team made the event feel different.

A year ago, NA took three wrestlers.

“When I’d take one wrestler, you’re there just for her,” Heckert said. “There’s really no one cheering her on except her parents. Now, it felt very similar to the boys championship. We had our whole team there, and the rest of her teammates are cheering her on and supporting each other.”

Rumpler was among seven wrestlers from the WPIAL who finished top six. Canon-McMillan’s Chloe Ault placed second at 136 pounds, and teammate Natalie Rush was third at 170. Kiski Area’s Isabella DeVito also placed third, at 124 pounds.

“This was the deepest and strongest that state tournament has ever been,” Heckert said. “There were 115 different schools represented. If every single one of those schools sanctioned girls wrestling, we’d be a PIAA sport.”

The PIAA board in February made girls wrestling an “emerging sport,” giving it an official path to sanctioned status. To become a PIAA sport, 100 member schools must sponsor a team. Advocates for girls wrestling have said approximately 35 schools sponsor a team, a number that’s growing.

But Heckert is just as focused on increasing the number of wrestlers on his roster. He’s optimistic that seeing their classmates’ success will convince other girls to join the team.

He points to the state championship experience of junior Callie Rautenbach, a field hockey player who took up wrestling for the first time this winter. She won her first-round match in the 142-pound tournament and three more bouts in the consolation bracket.

“She really didn’t start practicing until January, and she finished one match short of placing,” Heckert said. “That was really an amazing thing to sit back and watch. To see how much she progressed.”

Also competing at states were senior Taylor Stover, junior Hannah Williams, sophomore Audrey Morrison and freshmen Brenna Collery, Maya Scott and Kaylee Dean.

Rumpler, in her second season of wrestling, was the team’s standout this year in Harrisburg. Rumpler started her tournament run with a 12-6 decision over Carlisle’s Katelyn Coldren and then pinned Valley’s Paula Sanchez in 56 seconds.

In the semifinals, Rumpler pinned Pottstown’s Mia Bumbarger in 3 minutes, 18 seconds, which was a win that carried added significance for Rumpler. A year ago, Bumbarger pinned Rumpler in the consolation bracket at states, ending the NA wrestler’s season.

“We were able to flip the script,” Heckert said. “She pinned Mia Bumbarger to get to the finals, and that was her goal all year long: get there and get to that stage.”

Rumpler was pinned by Chestnut Ridge’s Patron Plummer in the finals, but she made NA history by earning a silver medal.

“Our team is completely comprised of first- and second-year wrestlers,” Heckert said. “Layna has a year and a half experience going against girls who have four or five years of experience. To go out there, and for almost all of (the NA wrestlers) to win matches and some of them go really deep, it shows you don’t need five or six years to succeed at this.

“We’ve got a chance to do something really special here. The more numbers we have, the better chance we have at accomplishing those goals.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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