Weekly Feature

2016-04-14 / Sports

Lancaster wrestler earns All-American status

Sports Reporter

Eighth-grader Ryan Stencel poses with his All-American certificate after finishing fifth in the NHSCA National Wrestling Tournament April 1. Eighth-grader Ryan Stencel poses with his All-American certificate after finishing fifth in the NHSCA National Wrestling Tournament April 1. Lancaster varsity wrestling sent nine team members to the NHSCA National Wrestling Tournament the weekend of April 1 and one left with All-American status.

Ryan Stencel, an eighth-grader, finished fifth in the 127-pound weight class of the middle school division.

Lancaster coach Ron Lorenz was impressed by the finish, considering the level of competition at the tournament, which drew athletes from 41 states.

“There are a few national tournaments, but this is the only one that’s governed by the group that governs our high school season,” Lorenz said. “It’s the national tournament of national tournaments.”

Stencel just finished his second year of varsity wrestling, where he usually competes in the 132-pound weight class. Lorenz noticed Stencel while he was wrestling in the Lancaster youth program. He was enticed enough by Stencel’s potential to bring him up to varsity as soon as he was eligible.

“He’s an elite athlete in other sports, too, baseball especially,” Lorenz said. “He came up through our youth program, which is very strong. That’s how we noticed him and we decided to bring him up to varsity.”

Stencel was in and out of the lineup during his first season but had a strong eighth-grade campaign, finishing sixth in his weight class at sectionals.

“As an eighth-grader in that weight class, that’s pretty remarkable,” Lorenz said. “That class has a lot of juniors and seniors.”

Heading into the tournament, Lorenz didn’t know what to expect for Stencel. He’d face other eighth-graders after a year of taking on high school students, but it was tough to gauge the caliber of the opponents. They were from all different states and were good enough to make the trip to a national tournament.

“We thought he might do well in that division. But we weren’t too sure,” Lorenz said. “We didn’t know what the competition would be like. Obviously I knew he would go down there and compete and do his best.”

Stencel earned a first-round bye, enabling him and Lorenz to scout his potential opponents. Lorenz knew he would be able to handle his first challenger, a wrestler from West Virginia. But he didn’t expect him to take just 45 seconds to get the pin.

“He had a bye in the first round, so the first night we got to watch his competition,” Lorenz said. “The kid who won was obviously good, but we thought Ryan could handle him. We thought it might be a close match, but that Ryan would come through. It can sometimes be hard to gauge how good a kid is by watching for the first time, because you don’t know how good the opponent is. But Ryan ended up pinning the kid in like 40 seconds.”

The victory sent Stencel to the quarterfinals, where he would take on a Delaware native Lorenz had also scouted that first night.

“Also that first night, we watched the kid who he would have if he made it to the quarterfinal,” Lorenz said. “That kid was pretty tough. I told Ryan the kid would be a tough match for him.”

Stencel earned a 2-0 decision to move to the semifinal round. But that’s when he suffered his first setback. Facing the eventual champion from Pennsylvania, he dropped a 6-1 decision.

“That match he had a questionable take-down, then he gave up a questionable take-down on the edge,” Lorenz said. “So he was down 2-1. Late in the match, Ryan just went for broke to try to get a point and the kid scored on him. That was basically it. He was right in that match and that kid went on to win the whole weight class.”

Stencel then moved to the consolation bracket, where he dropped a 2-1 decision in the first match. His final match would determine whether he would finish in fifth or sixth place in the tournament. Facing an opponent from Alaska, he won by pinfall in 2:34, clinching All-American status and showing off an impressive bit of resilience.

“After he won in the quarterfinals, he was really excited,” Lorenz said. “We were talking about what we were going to do to celebrate if he ended up winning the finals. When he lost he was really upset. I went up to him and grabbed him and said ‘it was just a match forget it. We’ve got two more to wrestle today.’ He came back out, did well, but lost another tough match. He was really upset about that, too. But to see how he responded in the fifth-place match as a young, mentally immature kid was really impressive.”

Stencel is an All-American and one of the best 132-pound wrestlers in Section VI. All before his first day of high school.

“As an eighth-grader, he’s showing the kind of potential that the best wrestlers I’ve ever seen showed,” Lorenz said.” He’s got the potential to be our next state champion.

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