East Xtra: Hempfield junior has big plans

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Hempfield Area junior Fred Mantsch got a late start to his varsity wrestling career, but quickly made up for lost time.

“Fred spent most of the 2012-13 season recovering from a dislocated knee,” Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said. “He came back at the end of the season and opened some eyes in the section tournament.”

Mantsch won the Class AAA Section 1 tournament at 220 pounds, thus qualifying for the WPIAL tournament, despite having wrestled only 10 varsity bouts. He finished the season with a 13-3 record after losing two of three matches at the WPIAL tournament, but showed everybody that he was someone to watch.

“Sitting half of the season was not easy,” Mantsch said. “But once I got on the mat, I realized what I was capable of doing.”

Mantsch came into this season with a clean bill of health and has since shown Hempfield fans that he is capable of winning a WPIAL title.

“Fred worked very hard over the summer to get ready for the season,” DeAugustine said. “We held conditioning workouts three days a week and he attended every one. He’s got the talent and desire to be a WPIAL champion. He just needs to be more consistent.”

Mantsch has competed in three tournaments this season and shown significant improvement in each. He placed fifth at the King of the Mountain Tournament after losing twice to South Western’s Seth Janney, the eventual fourth-place finisher.

Next was Mantsch’s most impressive performance of the season. He won four consecutive matches at the prestigious Powerade Christmas Tournament before losing, 10-6, to Parkland’s Omar Haddad in the title match.

“Fred opened the tournament with three pins, then upset the No. 1 seed from Solanco [Bo Spiller] in the semifinals,” DeAugustine said. “He came up short in the finals, but placing second at such a strong tournament is something to be proud of.”

Mantsch had a setback in Hempfield’s next dual meet, as he dropped an 11-6 decision to Greater Latrobe’s Logan Carns.

“We sat down and talked with Fred after that match and reminded him that he has to be ready for each match,” DeAugustine said. “We stressed to him that you can’t live off past success. You have to continue to work hard in each match.”

Mantsch rebounded with a major decision in Hempfield’s next dual meet, then registered four victories in a row at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament last weekend at Franklin Regional.

“I missed the Powerade and county tournaments last year when I was injured,” Mantsch said. “Wrestling in the finals at both tournaments was a great experience.”

Mantsch faced Kiski Area’s Chad Kuhn, the younger brother of WPIAL champion Shane Kuhn, in the WCCA title match and recorded a 6-0 shutout to capture his first county title.

“We hadn’t faced Kuhn before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect,” DeAugustine said. “Fred dominated him. It was very impressive.”

Mantsch entered the week with a 17-4 record and ranked No. 2 in the Post-Gazette’s WPIAL Class AAA rankings. He will move up to No. 1 next week because Montour’s Cole Macek has moved down to 195 pounds.

“Fred decided after last season to stop playing football and concentrate on wrestling,” DeAugustine said. “I’m an advocate for kids participating in more than one sport, but in this case it’s paid off for him.”

DeAugustine encouraged Mantsch to move up to the varsity as a freshman, but he decided to stay on the junior high team after consulting with his family.

“I really thought Freddy was ready for varsity competition, but his family wanted him to gain more experience at the junior high level,” DeAugustine said. “I respect that decision, but feel it was a mistake.”

Looking back on the situation, Mantsch agrees.

“I kind of regret not moving up as a freshman,” Mantsch said. “But I’m here now and making the best of my opportunity.”

Mantsch, who is only a junior, would like to continue his wrestling career in college.

“I could wrestle at Seton Hill, but would like a chance to wrestle at a Division I school,” Mantsch said. “For that to happen, I will have to do well in the postseason tournaments.”

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