Replenished Penn-Trafford wrestling team expects to fill entire lineup this season
Penn-Trafford wrestling coach Rich Ginther knew the storm was coming last year. All he could do was hang on, and good times would come.
A combination of a high turnover of wrestlers, untimely injuries and a lack of sheer numbers put the Warriors in an unfamiliar position. Penn-Trafford only managed to fill eight weight classes on a good day. But now, the storm has passed and the Warriors are ready for battle.
“We should have a full lineup,” said Ginther, who is in his eighth season as the Warriors coach. “This year, we doubled our roster size and can fill all of the weight classes but not much depth.”
There might not be much depth but there will be improvement. The fact there’s numbers means Ginther’s assistant coaches won’t have to jump in the circle during practice. Ginther said his days of sparring are over.
“We won’t need to torture our bodies this year,” Ginther joked.
Nevertheless, the impact of having a full wrestling room is immeasurable, and Ginther knows that his Warriors are better off sparring one another. Being able to field all the weight classes also opens up more goals to try and reach.
“These kids know they have a team and one of their main goals now is to make the team playoffs,” Ginther said. “It’s nice to have a goal this year, knowing last year it was impossible.”
Penn-Trafford will again compete in arguably the most difficult section in all the WPIAL, if not the state, in Section 1A-AAA. The Warriors start the season at home against Franklin Regional before traveling to perennial power Kiski Area and Plum. The Warriors wrap up their home schedule against Norwin and on the road at Central Catholic.
Ginther is excited about getting back to team competition and running through the section gauntlet.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Ginther said. “If you’re going to be in a section, that’s the section I want to be in. Our kids are battle-tested for sure.”
Ginther is going to have to rely on the Warriors who have already been to battle while the younger wrestlers acclimate to varsity wrestling.
Penn-Trafford returns senior Nick Coy at 145 pounds. Coy, a Virginia recruit, is a three-time PIAA qualifier and is expected to perform at a high level this season. Ginther said Coy has a “good chance” at standing at the top of the podium at season’s end.
Senior Brent Ginther (126 pounds) is back after an injury-plagued junior season. Another Warrior returning from injury is junior Peyton Kelly (220). Kelly suffered a leg injury during football season and missed the entire 2017 campaign.
“He’s eager, a little cautious, but starting to get back into his groove,” Ginther said.
Senior John Bachar (182) is coming off a 20-plus win season. Ginther said Bachar has set some pretty lofty goals after making a deep run through the WPIAL Class AAA bracket last year. Senior Connor Shirey (170) cracked the lineup for the first time last season and is a pivotal piece to the team puzzle.
“(Shirey’s) success will be key to the team success this season, for sure,” Ginther said.
Junior Tony Zona (160) returns a year wiser after a productive sophomore season.
From there, the Warriors’ experience level drops, but the talent is fertile. The Warriors have some accomplished talent coming up from the middle school program. This is what Ginther had been waiting on for more than a year.
Ginther welcomes freshman Troy Hohman (106) to the pack. Hohman made the state semifinals last season. Another state qualifier from the middle school ranks is freshman Wesley Stull (138). Both wrestlers have been fast tracked into the starting lineup.
“It’s really competitive right now, especially here in Western Pa.,” Ginther said. “These kids are coming through the junior-high ranks are putting in just as much time and effort as the senior-high kids.”
The Warriors also have a heavyweight in John Harris to wrestle at 285 pounds.
“It’s going to be a process and look for wins along the way and learn from the losses,” Ginther said. “I always say, ‘be better in March than you are in January.’ ”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.