The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

April 22, 2011

UPJ gets Portage wrestler

EBENSBURG — David Kephart accomplished a lot on high school wrestling mat – winning 131 matches and earning a PIAA medal – but he knows that he’ll need to improve to be a successful wrestler at the collegiate level.

In some ways, the Bishop Carroll senior, who wrestles for Portage, has already been working on that for a season. Kephart was a two-time state qualifier heading into his senior season, but that didn’t keep first-year coach Adam Whetstone from overhauling his style. Whetstone wanted to take the penchant for big moves that had allowed Kephart to pile up wins at the district and regional levels and balance it out with solid fundamentals that would serve the 189-pounder better at the higher levels.

But that wasn’t the only change that Whetstone helped facilitate in Kephart.

“He came out, guns blazing, changed my personality from this cocky, arrogant little kid who thought he was good at wrestling into a half-decent human being,” Kephart said.

“He’s done a lot of work for me. He’s done a lot of great things for me. He taught me what wrestling’s all about, what it’s supposed to turn you into. I think he’s done a pretty good job of that.”

Maybe it’s shouldn’t be a surprise then, that Kephart followed Whetstone’s lead in another area.

Kephart announced on Thursday that he will wrestle for Pat Pecora at Pitt-Johnstown, the same coach who helped develop Whetstone into an All-American.

“I was looking at a bunch of football opportunities,” Kephart said of his college recruiting process. “(Bishop Carroll coach Craig Sponsky) really worked hard at getting us a lot of opportunities with football. UPJ was always in the back of my mind.

“That’s always an option. Coach Whetstone talked to me about it. I talked to Coach Pecora. I loved the atmosphere there.

“I love the campus. And it’s one of the best Division II college wrestling programs you can get into. I figured that would be the best place to call home.”

It’s not far from Kephart’s Portage home, and he’s already familiar with some of the wrestlers there, including former teammate Shawn Perich, who just completed his freshman season with the Mountain Cats.

“I know a few of the guys there,” Kephart said. “I know Peaches. Peaches will be there.

“He’s a good guy to hang around with. He’s fun. We wrestled for three years together at Portage. We’ll just keep the friendship going there.”

Kephart went 131-21 in high school and finished seventh in Class AA at 189 pounds this season. He won the District 6 championship and was second in the Southwest Region as a senior.

But he knows it will take time to adapt to college wrestler, which is much more dependent on a strong ability to wrestle from the neutral position.

“I’ve always been all right on top and bottom,” said Kephart, who expects to wrestle at 184 pounds. “I really need to work on my neutral. That’s college wrestling right down to the sciences. If you can stand up on your feet and you can be good on your feet, you’ll be a good college wrestler.”

Kephart will redshirt next season, which will give him time to adapt to college.

“I’m going to spend the rest of the summer and go into my redshirt freshman year working on my feet with the rest of the college guys,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll improve to be an all right wrestler by my freshman and sophomore year.”

With limited competition in his freshman season, Kephart will also be able to concentrate on his studies.

“I’m going to go undecided the first year, just to get the redshirt out of the way, I think,” he said. “Then I’m going to go into premed. “

He hasn’t decided what type of doctor he wants to be.

“I’ve got four years to decide that,” he said. “I just know I want to go into the medical field and become a doctor. I don’t know if I want to be a surgeon or specialize in plastic surgery or something like that. I’ve got a long time to decide that.”

Kephart is the son of Dave and Elise Kephart of Portage.

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