North Xtra: Pine-Richland senior revels in title

WPIAL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
March 8, 2012 12:01 am
  • Pine-Richland's Ben Balish, back, defeated Central Catholic's Zack Deluca, 2-1, in the semifinals of the Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Region Tournament, Saturday at Norwin High School.  Balish won the 220-pound title.
    Pine-Richland's Ben Balish, back, defeated Central Catholic's Zack Deluca, 2-1, in the semifinals of the Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Region Tournament, Saturday at Norwin High School. Balish won the 220-pound title.
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Ben Balish is enjoying his celebrity status at Pine-Richland High School after winning the 220-pound title at the Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Regional tournament this past weekend at Norwin High School.

"I have classmates congratulating me and giving me high-fives as I walk down the hall," Balish said. "I don't think it will last more than a couple days, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts."

A senior, Balish can become an even bigger celebrity at Pine-Richland by winning a title at this weekend's PIAA tournament at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa.

"I'm a realist," said Balish, when asked about wrestling in Hershey for the first time. "The competition at this tournament is very strong, but I believe that anyone can beat anyone on any given day.

"I just have to be mentally and physically prepared for each match. I will go out and do my best and see how things go."

Balish (36-2) recorded four victories in the three-day WPIAL tournament, including three that were decided by one point.

"A key to being successful in the upper weight classes is learning how to win the close matches," Pine-Richland coach Stephen Joseph said. "And conditioning is a big part of winning the close matches. He's in great condition for a big guy."

Balish was seeded second in the 20-man bracket and opened with a pin of Hempfield Area's Corey Jones. Then came a 3-2 decision against No. 7 seed Tanner Hahn of Greensburg Salem in the quarterfinals, and a 2-1 win against No. 6 seed Zack DeLuca of Central Catholic in the semifinals.

"I went into the tournament expecting to win," he said. "I really felt confident."

Balish faced top seed Alex Campbell of Canon-McMillan in the title match and scored a reversal with nine seconds left to pull out an 8-7 victory.

"Ben's goal coming into the season was to qualify for the state tournament," Joseph said. "Now that he's reached that goal, his next goal is to place high at the state tournament."

Balish's title is the ninth in school history, and the first since Jim Slomka won the 275-pound crown in 1990. Only three Pine-Richland wrestlers have placed at the PIAA tournament. Scott Heim in 1982 is the Rams only PIAA champion.

Balish opens the PIAA tournament with a match against Archbishop Wood's Jake Cooper (24-4), the third-place finisher from the Southeast Region, today.


First Published 2012-03-07 23:42:39

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