As a sophomore who has only been wrestling for three years, Penn Cambria's Josh Yarnish is going through the same growing pains as every other newcomer to the sport.
The one big difference between Yarnish and other new wrestlers is that he's deaf.
At a time when some kids don't compete for various reasons, Yarnish serves as an inspiration for those who want to wrestle but are physically challenged. He's an inspiration even for those who aren't physically challenged.
"The kid loves the sport," PC coach Todd Niebauer said. "He's so fun to have on the team, and the kids feed of off him. His talent is not where he'd like it to be, but his heart is huge. If I don't get him in the lineup, he's upset. I have to move the lineup around to get him in. The other kids love having him on the team."
Yarnish is 3-4 with two forfeit wins and a pin in the Cambria Heights dual meet. Wrestling at 160 and 171 pounds, he's been backing up PC stars Corey Rickens and John Julian.
Yarnish, who was born deaf, says it was hard to pick up the sport when he first started wrestling in junior high.
"It was very hard," Yarnish said through his mother, Pam. "I didn't know the important things, but I've improved every year. I lost a lot the first year. I had one win. The second year, we got a video camera, and I would watch myself. I had 14 wins the second year because I learned that much more just by watching myself."
Yarnish's interpreter, Jennifer Falvo, uses sign language during practice and matches to relay strategy and tips from the coaching staff. Before he wrestles, the referee informs his opponent that he's deaf.
"I can't hear the coach," Yarnish said, "and when the referee blows the whistle I have to watch for his hand movements. I always have to have an eye on my interpreter and the coach."
Not only is it challenging for Yarnish, but it's also challenging for Niebauer when he's coaching him.
"We have an interpreter, but if she's not there, I write it down and ad-lib. I'm picking up some of the signs," Niebauer said. "The biggest thing is communicating what weight I want him at.
"It's a learning experience for me and my staff. I have to make sure he gets messages when the interpreter isn't here. I'll catch myself yelling to him on the mat."
Yarnish doesn't mind that he can serve as an example of someone who can do anything, despite the challenges ahead of them, if they put their mind into what they're doing.
"Maybe they want to grow up and be strong and be a champion," Yarnish said. "I want to be a good wrestler."
With two years left after this one, Yarnish is hoping to improve and get to stand where other more gifted and experienced wrestlers have ever gotten to stand.
"I want to be a state champion," he said. "I think I can be that good."
Right now, though, he's far from that point. He weighed in at 160 for the dual meet against top-ranked Bedford, but Niebauer moved him up to 171, where Bison senior Ryan Hocker pinned him in 1:10.
He has dangerous hips," Niebauer said of Yarnish. "Sometimes, though, like the other night, he turns the wrong way. We'll try to get the best matchups for him and the best matchups for the team.
"He's getting better. It's a feel thing. You have to have a feel for what you're doing. He just has a lack of experience. But you can't teach heart, and he's got that. We have a lot to work with."
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at email@example.com.