Shaler junior high wrestlers make states, provide glimpse into program’s future

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Saturday, March 14, 2020 | 6:01 AM


Zach Hartung isn’t what you would call an experienced wrestler.

Before the past two years, the Shaler Area freshman’s experience primarily consisted of unsanctioned matches with his brother.

Hartung, who competes at 252 pounds, has shown considerable progress during his two-year career. He recently placed eighth at the Pennsylvania junior high wrestling championships.

Hartung doesn’t feel like starting later puts him too far behind his peers.

“It doesn’t matter if you are an eight-year wrestler or one-year wrestler,” Hartung said. “It’s all about whoever makes the first mistake.”

Hartung was one of two Titans wrestlers — along with seventh-grader Zenon Cieslak at 75 pounds — who qualified for the event. Both reached after winning their respective weight classes at the Area Seven tournament.

Getting fresh blood through the program is important for the Titans, who only had six varsity wrestlers this season.

“I’m hoping the fellow freshmen come in and become leaders,” Hartung said. “I want to win a state title. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication wrestling heavyweight in high school.”

Middle school coach Robert Taylor said the focus has been on growth.

Since he has been with the program, it has grown from eight to 24 wrestlers. Taylor credited the growth to the strong coaches.

“Basically, we are getting them into the wrestling room and trying to build up the camaraderie between the boys and girls,” Taylor said. “We never emphasize cutting weight. We want them to wrestle the weights they are. We want to be enthusiastic and encouraging with each other.”

Cieslak, who competed at states but didn’t place, added wrestling as part of his athletic portfolio. During each season, the third-year wrestler has a different activity. He also competes in lacrosse and on the football team.

“It’s a great way to experience new people and places,” Cieslak said. “Lacrosse is a great way of getting cardio in a fun and positive way. Football helps with weight lifting and strength building that can set me up to dominate more with speed and strength.”

Going to states was an eye-opener for Cieslak. He got a better idea of what will be coming up as he moves to the next level.

“It was fun to watch,” he said. “Some people had a perfect flow. They never stopped, and there was a lot of chain wrestling. I thought I have a shot of coming back next year and placing seventh or eighth.”

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