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Wrestlers step into the spotlight

BY VINCE TOWNLEY

There are certain sports in which participants are asked to maintain a delicate balance between team and individual goals. And perhaps in no sport is that more true than high school wrestling.

It is by nature the most individual of sports. Even when wrestling 'teams' go head to head, the essence of the sport remains the same. Two individuals, alone in battle in the center of the mat.

That is what makes this time of year so special for wrestlers and their fans. And make no mistake - no sport's fans are more loyal, more knowledgeable or more devoted.

Friday at sites around Western Pennsylvania, wrestlers will take their first steps down a path that hopefully leads to the PIAA_championships in Hershey the final weekend in February.

While team scores will still be tabulated and standings will still be kept, now is the time of year that the individual wrestlers can put their hopes and dreams first. They will be no less proud to be wearing the colors of their school on their singlet, but they can equally proud of the individual record they carry into battle.

And for the wrestlers for schools like Carlynton and Chartiers Valley, where the ever expanding opportunities available to high school athletes have hit very hard, its is their time to shine. It is the time when quality, not quantity, means more.

For wrestlers like Carlynton's undefeated junior Dan Butera and Chartiers Valley's Brian Hutton, Bill Sienerth, Adam Varoli and Mike Minella, it is the chance to show the rest of the area something their coaches already know - that lost in the deceiving dual match records has been a lot of astonishing individual performances.

Hopefully, if these youngsters do well this weekend and beyond, their fellow students and, more importantly, administrators at their respective schools will take note and begin to look at ways to breath life into the wrestling programs.

Carlynton coach Bill Yost is the first to admit, "It takes a special kind of kid to be a wrestler. It is not really a sport that you can get into part time. It takes a total commitment."

But those kinds of kids are out there. And perhaps it is time to show them where the wrestling room is and what the sport has to offer.

Less than 30 miles south there are Class AA schools with 30 or more wrestlers every year. Maybe there is something to this sport.