The time between the end of the regular season and the start of the individual tournament can be agonizingly long for wrestlers.

That’s why many coaches do their best to think of ways to make practice more interesting, whether that would be playing a game of dodgeball or holding practice in the swimming pool at the school, if one is available. That can go a long way in keeping wrestlers involved.

At McGuffey High School, Ethan Barr keeps his mind filled with thoughts that will motivate him when the time comes for the tournaments to start.

Well, the time is now and Barr, a talented 160-pound junior for the Highlanders, is ready to make those thoughts reality.

Barr and the rest of his teammates begin the long trek to what they hope will be a PIAA Class AA championship today at Canon-McMillan High School.

That’s where the section and WPIAL championships will be decided over the weekend. Barr is the top seed at 160 pounds in Section 1, so it is unlikely he will have any problems qualifying for Saturday’s WPIAL championships, which also will be held at Canon-McMillan.

Action gets underway today at 3 p.m. with the championships set for 7 p.m.

The top four wrestlers in each weight class will advance to Saturday’s WPIAL event, which gets underway at 10 a.m. The semifinals will be held at 12:20 p.m. and the finals at 5 PM.

The top seven wrestlers in each weight class of the WPIAL event will advance to the Southwest Region Tournament at Indiana University the following weekend.

“I don’t like the break,” said Barr. “I just want to continue with the team if we could. (During that time), we work more on conditioning.”

Barr has had an exceptional year, compiling a record of 36-4. While his path to a section title seems unencumbered, winning a WPIAL championship is going to take a little more work. That’s because two-time PIAA champion Thayne Lawrence of Frazier also is in the weight class. Lawrence wrestles in Section 3.

Lawrence missed a big chunk of the season with an injury but returned in time to go 11-0 and get his wrestling legs back under him. One thing he can be sure of, Barr will not be intimidated.

“He’s just another wrestler and I have to go out and wrestle him,” said Barr. “I just sort of fell into the weight. I thought about 152, but I saw 160 is a good opportunity. So I started lifting weights to get there.”

Barr is ranked No. 2 behind Lawrence in every rating system in the area. His only loss inside the WPIAL came against Oleg Melnyk of Carlynton and Conner Redinger of Quaker Valley. He later avenged the loss to Melnyk, but not Redinger, yet.

“I think Ethan can compete with anyone,” said McGuffey head coach Jared Roberts. “Lawrence is in his weight class and he’s a two-time state champion. But he’s only wrestled 11 times, so you don’t know what type of condition he will be in. So who knows? We have a shot.

“Ethan has a great work ethic. He and Rocco Ferraro have the best work ethic on the team. They are workout partners in the room. I think Ethan can win a medal in Hershey if he wrestles to his fullest potential.”

Assistant Sports Editor

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling.

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