Youth movement rises for Pine-Richland wrestling

Sunday, December 3, 2017 | 7:24 PM

Last year, the Pine-Richland wrestling team boasted a strong senior class that included Division I recruits in Hunter Baxter (Maryland), Garrett Burnham (Maryland), Alex Salas (Drexel) and Nick Geyer (Clarion).

This season figures to be a little different, and though the Rams possess a solid group of seniors, it could be the youngest of the team's wrestlers who lead the way.

“It was tough losing those guys off of our squad, but yeah, there's definitely some senior leadership here that we have on our team,” coach Ben Rings said.

“And there's a lot of young talent that's going to be working up through in the next couple of years. We'll continue to work and develop that, and hopefully, we'll have a real good team coming up.”

A trio of seniors, 145-pounder Ben Salas, 220-pounder John Folmer and Aaron Bailey, who will likely wrestle at 126 or 132 pounds, are aiming at the leadership mantle.

According to Rings, the three seniors should start.

While the seniors are expected to lead the way, it appears the Rams have a couple of underclassmen who can do more than simply carry their weight.

Nathan Lukez, who went 35-9 and won third place in Section 3-AAAA as a freshman last season at 106 pounds, will return for his sophomore season and wrestle at 120.

Meanwhile, Cole Spencer, a freshman, will make his debut after winning the championship for the 147-pound weight class in the junior high state tournament as an eighth grader last year.

“Nate probably loves wrestling more than almost anything else. He's gotten bigger. He's a strong, young man, I'll tell you that,” Rings said.

“And Cole, he's an incredibly talented, incredibly athletic kid. He'll be wrestling at 152 for us. Just watching his movements, all he needs is some fine tuning here and there, and he's going to be an absolute stunner for us this year, and in upcoming years.”

Most importantly, though, Rings said Pine-Richland has a lineup full of quality wrestlers. The team's overall quality and durability, he said, should help propel it to success.

“We've got a lot of quality wrestlers throughout the weight classes, so it's nice to have a little bit of a momentum keeper. What that means is, you can consistently win matches throughout the lineup so that the momentum stays in your favor or never gets too far away from you,” Rings said.

The Pine-Richland wrestling season begins Friday at the Chartiers-Houston Invitational.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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