South Fayette wrestling program takes lessons from difficult season

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 10:01 AM


The South Fayette wrestling program recently completed the 2020-2021 season without a berth in the WPIAL Class AAA team tournament and with only one wrestler advancing to the individual sectionals.

“I would say we somewhat underachieved, not based on the win-loss record in the section, but based on the performances in the individual matches,” South Fayette wrestling coach Rick Chaussard said.

There were several things that may have led to the Lions’ down year by their high standards.

This was the third year for the program as a Class AAA school after becoming a power in AA.

“I think we competed at the Triple-A level very well the first two seasons, making the team tournament and advancing wrestlers to the state tournament, including a couple of state medal winners last season,” Chaussard said. “Triple-A is much deeper than Double-A, team and individually. Team wise, forfeits will kill you while you can get by with them in Double-A.

“Our offseason work needs to be better if we want to compete with the upper echelon in Triple-A.”

It also didn’t help that South Fayette wrestled in arguably the strongest section in Class AAA.

“I believe Section 4-A has to be one of the toughest half-sections in the state,” Chaussard said. “We knew coming in it would be an uphill battle.”

The Lions finished in fourth place in the five-team Section 4A with a 1-3 record. South Fayette was 6-12 overall.

Then there was the obstacle that all teams had to deal with this season: wrestling during a pandemic.

“I thought they handled it very well considering it was a very frustrating season,” Chaussard said. “With all the starting and stopping that we had throughout the season, for the first month and a half, I don’t believe we went longer than a week without being stopped or shut down for a couple days due to covid. With all the starting and stopping, it generally affected the kids and it showed with their wrestling with inconsistencies on the mat. We seemed to never get on a roll.”

One South Fayette wrestler who did enjoy success during a tough season was James Anderson. He finished in third place at 113 pounds in the Section 4-AAA tournament, a spot that would usually earn him a berth in the WPIAL championships. This season, with a smaller field, he just missed out.

“His leadership at practice and when athletes were shut down stood out,” Chaussard said. “He would encourage teammates to come work out with him. His win total in this shortened season was almost as much as last year‘s full season. I firmly believe that the frustration that he showed throughout the covid shutdowns definitely affected his performance on the mat. The inconsistencies of the season caught up with him at the end of the season.”

The disappointment of this season quickly turns to optimism for next season. With a young roster and others possibly set to return to the program, Chaussard is excited as he looks forward to a successful campaign next winter.

“There are only two seniors on this year’s team,” he said. “We are returning 13 of our 15-man roster from this year, and our junior high has some really talented wrestlers that will give a nice influx to this lineup. Then, hopefully, the 12 kids who did not come out this year for various reasons return to the roster. Our coaching staff is very excited for what things look like in the near future, and I’m ready to get started with our offseason workouts.”

While this recently completed season did not go as well as Chaussard and his staff had hoped, the coach is hardly disappointed with his scrappy Lions.

“I’m very proud of our team’s overall efforts in this crazy start-and-stop shortened season,” he said. “With a couple injuries to a couple starters early in the season, the efforts of everyone involved made our coaching staff very proud.”

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