Second WPIAL wrestling title gives Pine-Richland’s Cole Spencer reason to smile

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Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 10:01 AM


In the middle of the second period of the WPIAL Class AAA 160-pound wrestling final, Cole Spencer took an accidental shot from Norwin’s Chase Kranitz and realized one of his teeth was broken.

“I got a little chip on it, and I asked the ref, ‘Where do I put this?’ He was like, ‘I don’t know,’ so I put it on the table,” Spencer said. “He asked me if I was good and I said yes, so I went back on the mat and we went back at it.”

A slight dental issue wasn’t about to keep him from winning a second WPIAL title.

Spencer went back to work and earned a third-period takedown in a 3-1 decision.

After two periods, and one less tooth, Spencer trailed Kranitz 1-0, but was able to get to his offense in the third to claim victory.

“In the third period, he kind of came in with a sloppy shot and I beat him to the corner pretty quick,” Spencer said. “I ended up on top and rode him out for the entire third period to take the win.”

A day after the match, Spencer joked that he may need to invest in a mouth guard in the future.

“I’ve heard from so many coaches that you have to wear headgear or you’ll get cauliflower ear, but they’ve also said to wear a mouthpiece because your teeth can get banged up,” Spencer said. “I always said I’d never wear a mouthpiece, and I paid for it (in the WPIAL final).”

Spencer’s road to a second WPIAL title presented a familiar foe in the semifinals in North Allegheny’s Collin McCorkle. It was the fourth time the two had wrestled this season and the third time in a span of two weeks. Spencer earned a 1-0 decision to improve to 4-0 against McCorkle, a transfer from Arizona.

Both wrestlers advanced from WPIALs, and a fifth meeting was possible at the super regional in Altoona.

“I wrestled him my first match this year and beat him 10-1. Then at sub-sections, I beat him 4-0, and at sectionals three days later, it was 3-1. Then it was 1-0 at WPIALs, so it’s been closer and closer each time,” Spencer said. “He’s definitely tightened it up and has been game-planning for me, so it was obviously good to get that win.

“For me, it’s about staying on my offense. I didn’t get a takedown in the last match, but I was on his legs twice both at the end at the second and third period, but I wasn’t able to finish it off. But a win’s a win.”

Spencer was back at practice the morning after the WPIAL final, training with Pine-Richland coach Caleb Kolb. He’s looking to get his first PIAA gold in his final try after finishing fourth last year.

In a normal year, he would have been joined by teammates Kelin Laffey and Anthony Ferraro at states, but both wrestlers finished fourth, one spot out of advancing. Participants in the PIAA postseason were limited because of the coronavirus pandemic. A super regional was added this year to trim the field even more prior to the state tournament.

“We’ve never had more than two wrestlers advance to states, and in a normal year, we would have had three that moved on,” Spencer said. “That definitely stinks for us. It’s a weird year having a super regional, but if you’re going to win it all, you have to keep winning these tournaments. It’s a shame for some of those kids that can’t continue on, but I’m just happy with my performance, and hopefully I can keep plugging away.”

Aside from a decorated wrestling career, Spencer has shined on the football field as the Rams quarterback, helping the team win two WPIAL titles and a state championship this season.

For his efforts on the football field, Spencer was named a finalist for the inaugural Willie Thrower Award for the top quarterback in the WPIAL or City League. The award is presented by the Willie Thrower Memorial Foundation in honor of Thrower, who died in 2002 at the age of 71. Thrower was a standout at New Kensington High School and at Michigan State before becoming the first black quarterback in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

The other finalists are Ameer Dudley (Central Valley), Brad Birch (Jeannette), Jake Pugh (Thomas Jefferson) and Ethan Dahlem (Upper St. Clair). The winner will be announced at a luncheon April 10 at the Northern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center.

“It’s a huge honor to be one of those top five, especially with it being the first time for the award,” Spencer said. “We’ll see how it ends up in April, but it’s pretty cool.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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