New Castle News

December 5, 2012

Laurel Wrestling Preview: Pickup pushing gives Spartans a lift

Andrew Petyak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — One of the most important things to a high school student is a driver’s license.

Getting behind the wheel of their dad’s pickup and hitting the open road marks a major step in independence and adulthood.

Members of the Laurel High wrestling team don’t need a license to get a truck moving. They push it themselves.

“Our kids are pushing pickup trucks to build their leg strength,” Spartans coach Kevin Carmichael said. “We don’t have easy workouts. We don’t do things the orthodox way. Our kids are doing things that some teams might not do, but I think we take pride in the fact that we do it. We see the results on the mat. I tell all of our kids we win our matches in the third period, because when that other kid has his foot on the line and he’s just gassed and he has nothing left, we’re ready to go. We’re just starting. We condition our kids to a very high level.”

The hard work is paying off as Laurel wrestling made the playoffs last season for the first time since 1997, finishing sixth in the WPIAL Class AA Section Championships with a record of 3-2 in the section and 7-3 overall. The Spartans are hoping their intense work ethic, dedication and experience will push them even further this season.

“We look good if we stay healthy,” Carmichael said. “I’m confident if we stay healthy we’ll be in the playoffs again. I have very good and very talented wrestlers on the team this year.”

Seniors Jacob Breitenstein and Shane King are hoping to reach 100 individual match victories in their careers this season. According to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, Breitenstein, who competes at 160 pounds, was 31-7 in matches a season ago. King (152 pounds), was ranked second by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the WPIAL Class AA 138-pound weight class at the end of last season.

“Our seniors have grown a lot. They thought they were good when they were younger, then they went to varsity and they saw it’s a big change,” Carmichael said. “You’re taking ninth graders and putting them against seniors. Physically and mentally there’s a huge difference. They definitely took some beatings when they were younger. There’s a good core with these kids. They’ve won a good amount of matches, even as young kids, because they were talented at the sport.”

Lettermen Ryan Soom, Harley Peterson, Ryan Glasser and Rick Nail will attempt a second consecutive playoff run. Junior Dalton Rosta might be this year’s surprise athlete.

“Rosta is very fast, very agile and very strong,” Carmichael said. “I’m very interested in seeing how far he goes this year. I wouldn’t be shocked if he was in the WPIAL top six at the end of the year.

“I always testify that if we have the numbers and fill the weight classes, we’ll win matches. We proved that last year. We have very strong wrestlers, especially in the middleweights. We just don’t have the depth. I think we forfeited three times, and we still made the playoffs,” Carmichael said. “It brought a lot of notoriety to the program, and I see that in our junior high program this year. Our numbers went through the roof. Obviously we brought a little bit of popularity for the sport to the school. Our grade school program had 40 kids this year. Those numbers are fantastic.”

The recent boon in success is in stark contrast to the state of wrestling in Pennsylvania just a few years ago. Carmichael cites budgets as a major reason for the decline, stating school boards put more focus into academics.

“I do understand that side of it, but at the same time I do understand the necessity for proactive activities for kids today,” he said. “They have to have an outlet. I think high school athletics plays a huge part in that. Without those activities, other than studying, what does a kid have to look forward to?

“The difference between when I was wrestling and (assistant coach) Tony Seamans wrestled is that kids today have so many opportunities to not be a part of something. They can go home and hop on the Xbox and do those things. When you find a group of kids that doesn’t want to do that, they want to be in this room wrestling, it says a lot about their character. This is not an easy sport. This is a very brutal sport. When you find that unique individual to stick with it, it says a lot about them, win or lose. I don’t care if a kid loses every match of the season, if he makes it through an entire season in the practice room, then he’s accomplished something and he should be proud of himself.”