Robert West has his future figured out.
He will graduate from Trinity High School in 2015, then head to Notre Dame University, before going on to play running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars and middle linebacker for the Steelers.
At least that’s what his Facebook status said.
Before any of that happens, West will try to win the 195-pound weight class in the Tri-CADA Wrestling Tournament at Ringgold High School.
The first of this two-day event begins at 4:30 p.m. today. Semifinals are at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and finals are 2:30 p.m.
West finished third at 182 pounds in last year’s tournament, but the first- and second-place finishers, Dustin Conti of Jefferson-Morgan and Brent Blacharczyk of McGuffey, have graduate. That leaves West, a junior, as the favorite in the weight class.
“I know the top two are gone, but there are still kids in that weight class, and they deserve respect,” said West.
West brings a 15-2 record into the tournament, with one loss coming to Brad Grinnen of Ellwood City and the second to Marcus Davenport of Valley. Both defeats came at the Southmoreland tournament and under unusual circumstances.
Prior to the event – West is unsure exactly when – he was bitten on the right arm by a spider, the Brown Recluse, he says, and that affected his wrestling.
“I think it happened when I was hunting, but I’m not sure,” West said. “On Christmas Day, it got worse. It was right before (the tournament).”
The 6-1 loss to Grinnen came in the semifinals and the 9-8 loss to Davenport was in the consolation finals. West finished fifth after pinning Cody Pawlowski of Gateway in 2:45.
“Last year, he was a good fundamental wrestler,” said Trinity head coach Mark Powell. “But he didn’t wrestle aggressively. He was always defending. Now, he’s pushing the pace more.”
It’s showing good results. West decisioned Kyle Kremiller of Perry, Ohio, 2-1 in overtime in the finals of the North Coast Classic in Independence, Ohio, last month to win the 195 title.
“I’ve been working on my shots,” said West. “I was a little too defensive last year. If you get defensive in a match, it’s hard to score those important two points. My opponents wouldn’t shoot into me, because they knew I scored off that.”
Other storylines in this tournament include Burgettstown’s Austin McDermitt, who has been wrestling at 126 but plans to drop to 120 for the postseason. That means McDermitt, Jefferson-Morgan’s Brendan Howard, Southmoreland’s Austin Griffiths and Bentworth’s Jake Rothka could be grouped in that weight for the postseason. Defending state champion George Phillippi of Derry and Chartiers-Houston’s Josh Kuslock also are at that weight.
“Right now, I’ve been steady at 120, 122,” McDermitt said of his weight. “The last two seasons, it’s been Howard and Griffiths in my weight class. I haven’t wrestled Rothka or Kuslock this season. I wrestled Rothka a bunch of times in my freshman and sophomore season and beat him most of the time.”
McDermitt did not close the door on dropping to 113 for the postseason, but it will depend on how he feels.
“I put an hour each night in the gym on the treadmill and the bike,” he said. “And that’s after going to practice.”
Dalton Macri, a state runner-up for Canon-McMillan last season, is probably going to miss the tournament because of the flu. Macri sat out the Big Macs’ 62-12 victory over Chartiers Valley Wednesday night and C-M head coach Jason Cardillo said he will probably hold Macri out.
Solomon Chishko, who has missed the last month after having the meniscus removed in his right knee, will return to practice next week, but Cardillo said there is no timetable yet on the defending 145-pound state champion’s return.
Chartiers-Houston and Peters Township will not participate in the tournament. They are entered in the Virginia Duals instead. Connellsville also will be absent.