With new coach, Knoch wrestling looks to surprise in WPIAL Class AA

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 6:54 PM


With a new coach and a rejuvenated attitude, the Knoch wrestling team is ready to surprise teams this year as the Knights drop down to WPIAL Class AA and gain a few new wrestlers.

Bob Waldron, who is originally from the New Jersey area and has been around wrestling his entire life, took over the program in the offseason and has been excited ever since.

After the Knights went 4-8 overall last year, Waldron has brought a new energy to the program, and he is hoping to keep them moving in the right direction.

“I took this on as a challenge,” Waldron said. “I know the kids out here in this area, and in Western Pennsylvania in general, are tough, so I knew they would show up if they had something to look forward to and had a program that kind of looked like people were caring for. I’m here to make this team better and do whatever it takes to get them there.”

Waldron is returning a few key wrestlers from last year, including heavyweight Eli Reese, who went 26-7 as a junior. But the big guy for Knoch lost close to 50 pounds in the offseason, is possibly in the best shape of his life and could even drop down a weight class if Waldron needs him to.

Reese is just the beginning of the talent Knoch has. With the coaching change and a few of his friends rejoining the program after not wrestling the past few years, Reese believes the Knights could be ready for a big season.

“I really like what he’s doing so far, and I think everything’s going to be good. I think we’re going to have a good year this year overall,” Reese said.

Along with Reese, seniors Samuel Freyermuth and Ty Misitis could also play big roles for the Knights, and Kyle Lauster returns after going 15-15 last season. Reese said it was nice to see guys like juniors Nathaniel Becker and Aaron Butler come back out.

“Most of the kids on this team have wrestled before. It’s just some of their first seasons in high school,” Reese said. “So it’s good to see them come back to it because we wouldn’t have had a lot of numbers if they didn’t come back. So people like Aaron and Nate come back, it’s nice because we have a fuller roster and can compete a lot more.”

The up-and-down nature of this season due to the coronavirus pandemic and the recent pause of high school athletics by Gov. Tom Wolf has allowed Waldron to ease into the new position. He’s establishing a new culture, but it’s also allowing him to get to know his wrestlers and get them into shape for the coming season.

As a new coach, Waldron wants to establish an identity for his program, and he wants his wrestlers to be known as guys who won’t give up, even when their backs are against the wall.

“You want to establish what type of team you are, and if you’re lacking certain things, you want to condition the heck out of the guys, so they are known for being workers that you can’t count out,” Waldron said. “That’s what I’m trying to bring. My biggest attributes are in fitness. I understand the human body very well, so I know what it takes to get into wrestling shape. I just want these kids to be know for being tough.”

There’s no shortage of “tough” wrestlers in Western Pennsylvania, and the Knights will have to face a few the first time they take on section foe and 14-time defending WPIAL champion Burrell next week. Overall, the Knights dropping down to Class AA competition could help them this season.

A year ago, they were in a section with Armstrong, Butler, Mars, Pine-Richland, and Class AAA powerhouse Seneca Valley. Now they are in a section with Burrell, Riverview, South Allegheny, Summit and Valley.

“I think they kind of got lost in that big AAA division, so I think this makes a little more sense,” Waldron said. “Some of the competition doesn’t even have full teams, but we’re still a little bit light, so all of them are falling into a spot for us.”

No matter where the Knights end up this year, Waldron and his team are just excited to be able to get on the mat and improve as much as they can.

“We’re happy to be able to compete,” Waldron said. “We’re going to show up, and I think people will be impressed with what we’ve got in the room here.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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