Spencer leads way for Pine-Richland wrestling team

Saturday, February 20, 2021 | 9:01 AM

Pine-Richland wrestling made some big strides during the team portion of the season, and now the hope is it has set it up for success in an expanded individual season.

That starts with defending WPIAL champ Cole Spencer, a Penn recruit who is No. 1 at 160 pounds in the TribHSSN WPIAL rankings.

Spencer, wrestling up one weight class from last season, placed fourth in the state last winter.

The Rams’ journey in the individual postseason started with subsectionals Wednesday and sectionals Saturday. The top two in each weight class advanced to the WPIAL tournament this Saturday at Canon-McMillan.

If any of the Rams place in the top two at WPIALs, they advance to the Super regional at Altoona prior to the PIAA championships in March.

In a typical season, the qualifiers from WPIALs go directly to the state championships. With the covid-19 pandemic, the state championships will have only eight wrestlers per weight class, which brought in the addition of the super regional.

It’s a different format, but Rams coach Caleb Kolb is confident Spencer is ready to defend his WPIAL title and beyond.

“He’s been wrestling very well,” Kolb said. “He’s a sponge and is always asking questions. If he’s working on something he’ll stay 10, 20 or sometimes 30 minutes after practice until he feels comfortable with it. It’s really a blessing to have him on the team. The younger kids on the team see that and, hopefully, they can build off of it.”

Spencer is 12-1 this year and 116-17 for his career. Kolb has seen him continue to work and improve throughout the year.

“There are things from this year to last year that we’ve really closed the gap on,” Kolb said. “He’s doing a really good job of changing direction, being aggressive and firing shots off. When he’s wrestling that way, it’s really tough to keep up with him.”

One of the highlights of the team season was finishing third overall at the Mid-Winter Mayhem at Monroeville Convention Center.

Sophomore Kelin Laffey opened some eyes by winning the 138 bracket at the Mid-Winter Mayhem. He was the section runner up. Laffey (6-0) has missed some time because of injury but is healthy and ready to go for the postseason, where he will bump up a weight class to 145.

“He’s a little go-er,” Kolb said. “He’s tough. He likes to scrap, and he’s really fun to watch.”

Another sophomore, Anthony Ferraro (113), also is a returning section runner-up. He’s compiled a 11-2 record this year.

“He’s a really hard worker and, like Cole, you just hope that pays off for him,” Kolb said.

Aside from Laffey, Ferraro and Spencer, Kolb thinks sophomores Jake Lukez (172) and Joey Schneck (285) could be sleepers who surprise some people in the coming weeks.

Schneck is 8-6 this year, but four of his losses have come against wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in the state.

“He’s only a 15 and he’s our heavyweight, but in the next couple years he’s going to be a hammer,” Kolb said. “I tell him every day that he needs to wrestle and lift in the offseason. He’s 265 pounds, and he’s an athlete. He has quick feet. A lot of heavyweights don’t have quick feet, but Joey can change direction. He can move, and he’s physical.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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