By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
IT HAS BEEN a great summer season of wrestling for local athletes, highlighted by the recent national championship victory by Kennedy Catholic grad Robert Ryhal at the National High School Coaches Association Tournament in Myrtle Beach.
Ryhal, a heavyweight who wrestled for West Middlesex in the joint KC-WM program suffered a broken foot at the PIAA AA State Championships in March and was forced to settle for 8th place after defaulting in his last two consolation matches. He made up for that disappointment every since.
At the nationals, Ryhal who wrestled for the Ragin’ Raisins team out of North East, Pa. coached by Jason Locke, met up with familiar foe Phil Catrucco, who will be a senior at Sharpsville, in the finals. Catrucco wrestled for the F.H. Buhl Club Bulldawgz, whose coaches also have helped Ryhal in the past. Ryhal came away with a 2-0 victory. Both wrestlers defeated some top grapplers from other states to reach the finals in the 20-man bracket.
Ryhal also won the national “Beach Championship” for a second straight year, wrestling in the sand.
The Bulldawgz made a strong team showing in Myrtle Beach, coached by Tom Hinkson and Butchie Scott. In the Junior High Division, Phil Bucher (160) went 4-2 and placed 5th. Zach Bress also wrestled at 160, going 2-2, while Frank Joseph competed at 132 and posted a 1-2 mark.
In the Elementary Division, Cam Cianci competed at 112 and went 4-1, placing 3rd. Gabe Priester (85) went 2-2 for a 7th place, while Miles Bowser (65) went 1-2.
The Bulldawgz earned spots at nationals by placing in an earlier qualifier. Ryhal and the Bulldawgz helped Pennsylvania to win the state team competition with 658 points, finishing ahead of Georgia with 570.
The top eight places in each weight are considered All-Americans. There were 32 states represented at the tournament.
Recently, several locals competed in the Mid-West Duals competition in Iowa. Ryhal and recent Reynolds High grad Lawrence Beckman, bound for Hofstra U., both finished undefeated while competing with the Ramrod Wrestling Club out of Hadley. Catrucco competed for the Ragin’ Raisins and wrestled well, again losing to Ryhal in a tough match and finishing 7-2.
“Phil has really improved this summer,” said Ryhal. “He should do well at (high school) states next year.”
Sharon sophomore Jordan Moss, who made a strong run in the PIAA tournament to finish 4th at state, also wrestled well in Iowa for the Ragin’ Raisins and went a perfect 9-0. The Raisins won the tournament as well as the nationals in Myrtle Beach.
ä Ryhal, son of Bob and Theresa Ryhal, Hermitage, will be heading to the University of Buffalo on a wrestling scholarship next season to wrestle for head coach Jim Beichner. Ryhal chose Buffalo over several other interested schools.
Carrying a 4.0 grade point average at Kennedy, Ryhal plans to major in pre-med. Although his wrestling career was curtailed when KC dropped its program a few years ago, he competed as a sophomore as an independent in tournaments, winning the Redbank Valley Tournament before an injury cut short his season.
As a junior he went 36-7 in the joint program with West Middlesex, qualifying for regions. This past year he went 30-2, posting 15 pins and winning Section 3 and District 10 titles. He also won championships at the Eisenhower, Redbank Valley, Indiana, Fred Bell Memorial and Fred Carr tournaments.
Last summer he was state champion in freestyle and competed at nationals. In 2006 he was a National High School Coaches Association All-American, placing 4th at nationals.
ä A pair of Hickory wrestlers in the Bad Karma program operated by coaches Mark Stein, Alec Miller, Nick Clepper and Dave Morris in Hermitage earned national bids after placing at the Pennsylvania State Wrestling Federation championships.
John Fischer (103) finished 3rd in freestyle and 2nd in Greco-Roman. Anthony LaCamera (285) was 2nd in Greco and 6th in freestyle.
Ryan Ochalek of Oil City, who competes with Bad Karma, took 2nd in both classes to qualify for nationals. John Apa (215) of Hickory just missed qualifying, placing 4th in Greco and 5th in freestyle.
Another local, Chris Mason of West Middlesex won the state freestyle championship in the Schoolboy Division at 205.
ä Several area wrestlers excel in the classroom as well as on the mats. Ryhal and Beckman, along with West Middlesex wrestler Gabe Fry (Kennedy grad) all earned First-Team All-State Academic honors this past year. Mercer senior Seth Creasy was second-team.
Among local juniors, four wrestlers copped honorable mention: Greenville’s Justin McCrillis and Kody McInturf, Mercer’s Tyler Hile and Reynolds’ Corey Brown. Sophomore Cody Kelly of Reynolds was 2nd team, while Commodore Perry soph Josh Cashdollar was honorable mention.
By Lynn Saternow