North Penn’s Sofiane Bensmail ready for states

HERSHEY — Sofiane Bensmail made a rather brazen pronouncement when he walked into the North Penn High wrestling practice room for the first time this season.

“He walked in,’ recalled Knights head coach Rob Shettsline, “and said, ‘ I’m going to states,”

Some five months later, the Knights junior lower weight backed up that boast when he finished fifth at 126 pounds at the PIAA Class AAAA Southeast Regional tournament Saturday night at Oxford Area High School.

“I’m very happy, very excited,’ Bensmail said about the achievement. “I worked very hard to get there. Our coaches pushed me and helped me reach my goal.’

Shettsline said Bensmail had all of the necessary physical tools to become a state qualifier heading into the year. But he was missing one important ingredient.

“Sofiane is real strong and very athletic,’ the coach said. “What he was missing was the experience. This is only his third year of wrestling.’

Experience is what he got, with the North Penn coaching staff often matching him up with the tougher wrestler at either 126 or 132 pounds.

“I wrestled a lot at 132,’ Bensmail said. “I was still making 126, but our coaches were matching me with a lot of tough kids, and that helped me, too.’

Bensmail said he rarely varied from his daily wrestling practice routine.

“I had done a lot of work in the off-season,’ he said. “And every day I made sure I was at practice on time and always going at 100 percent.’

The formula was obviously a success, although Bensmail said that like most good things, it wasn’t easy in coming.

“All of those things like not eating, and keeping my weight down, are tough,’ he said. “You have to be very disciplined.’

The effort was all worth it when Bensmail slipped past Bayard Rustin’s Daniel Labus, 7-6, in the regional fifth-place match to clinch his state berth.

“I have a new goal, and that’s to finish in the top eight at states,’ Bensmail said. “I reached my season goal, now I’m trying for the cherry on top.’

Hard work was also part of the formula that Bensmail’s North Penn teammate Colin Shannon drank down in earning his state spot.

Shannon was a less-than-pedestrian 13-15 for North Penn as a freshman, but blew up this year, finishing second via a close 4-3 decision to unbeaten Riley Barth in the District One East tournament finals and then taking fourth at regionals to earn the trip to Hershey.

“He wrestled all summer and his level of toughness just grew,’ Shettsline said. “You’d see him in real predicaments against a quality kid and he just wouldn’t go over (to his back).

“From a losing record to states in one year is unbelievable.’

Which once again, Shettsline said, demonstrates just what can be achieved with maximum effort.

“That just shows you what that type of dedication can do,’ the coach said.


Much has been made this season about the PIAA Class AAA Championships brackets being increased by four wrestlers per weight class.

The primary reason, to no one’s surprise, is financial.

“The attendance at states was down last year,’ said one D-1 insider. “This change gives extra berths to District One (although District III receives the extra berth next year in an every-other-year agreement), District Seven (Pittsburgh) and District 11 (Allentown), three of the most populated areas of the state.’

It is hoped the extra berths in the most populated areas in the Commonwealth will increase state attendance.

And perhaps wrestling attendance could use a boost in other necks of the woods.

The official attendance for the recent District One Class AA tournament at Church Farm School was 85.

That’s 8-5, folks.

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