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All-Area wrestling: Faith Christian’s faith reinvigorated despite obstacles

Nick Singer and his Faith Christian teammates never lost a grip on working toward the end goal of PIAA team and individual tournament success. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)
Nick Singer and his Faith Christian teammates never lost a grip on working toward the end goal of PIAA team and individual tournament success. (Amy Shortell/첥Ƶ)
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Injuries and surgeries caused state champions and state medalists to miss time or be late to find their wrestling rhythm.

That was the theme of Faith Christian’s final weeks of the 2023 calendar year.

There also was the abundance of the talent trying to fit into a 13-piece puzzle that was coach Ben Clymer’s starting lineup.

Those challenges tested the resolve of the wrestlers and coaches. It also showed who came to Faith Christian because of their dedication to God, and whose faith needed work.

Owin Brunner’s hip injury at the Rage in the Cage tournament Jan. 6 at Garnet Valley then blossomed into something far worse. The sophomore was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-cell ALL).

Earlier this month, Brunner celebrated his 16th birthday with Faith Christian friends and family members doing a drive-by his home. This week, he is in the second and most intense phase of chemotherapy. It is a daunting hill for Brunner to climb, but he has comfort knowing his teammates are there for him.

Brunner’s situation is merely the latest and most important reminder about what brought the Faith Christian wrestlers together — their faith, not their wrestling skills.

Clymer had that conversation multiple times this season with wrestlers and their families as the challenges mounted.

Through it all, the Lions and their coaches evolved as people. That brought a sense of pride to Clymer.

Many, though not all, of the wrestlers got healthy and put together another dominant run to a second consecutive PIAA Class 2A team tournament title. Nine then brought home state medals to conclude the individual season.

For all that Faith Christian endured and accomplished, it is 첥Ƶ All-Area 2A team of the year.

“There is satisfaction in the acknowledgment of trying to press all the right buttons,” Clymer said. “There’s not always a happy ending.

“It was a difficult year of having to try a lot of different angles and approaches as a coach. We had goals in place, and it was exciting to be able to perform the way we did at the team state tournament and beat Bishop McCort.

“But it was a lot emotionally.”

No situation remains as emotional as the prayers and support the Lions have for Brunner as he continues to battle cancer while many of them are preparing for their national and international offseason schedule.

Clymer hopes Brunner’s Faith Christian teammates take with them a renewed sense of their faith and purpose because there certainly will be more challenges ahead.

Cody Wagner is the only graduating starter in Clymer’s lineup. Plus, Fred Bachmann, the national No. 1-ranked eighth grader and younger brother of freshman state champion Joey Bachmann, will be looking for a spot. Kole Davidheiser returns from a season-ending injury at December’s Beast of the East tournament. Nick Singer will be hungrier to claim a starting spot after going 17-8 as perhaps the state’s most talented back-up.

Perhaps no one epitomizes what Clymer is building with the Lions’ program more than Singer. He lost multiple wrestle-offs, then didn’t compete after beating state third-place finisher Keegan Ramsay of Notre Dame-Green Pond and pinning Bishop McCort’s Owen McMullen at February’s state team tournament.

Yet he was the one after the practice-ending prayer huddle cleaning up the mats.

“No one cleaned more mats than Nick Singer,” Clymer said. “He and his brother [Jason] embody what we’re about here at Faith.”

The Lions coach was proud of others who overcame adversity or the pressure to succeed.

Joey Bachmann came to Faith Christian with a mountain of expectations. Nothing shy of an unbeaten season and a state title was expected.

He delivered but learned to grow past those expectations and enjoy his journey to state gold.

“After winning so many Super 32s and PJWs,” Clymer said, “now he was in the high school spotlight. He was talked about so much. There was so much pressure. I just felt that we had to help this kid.

“I was happy to see the joy he had competing in Hershey.”

Cael Weidemoyer was third at last year’s state tournament, but injuries took him out for a chunk of this season and eventually having to beat Singer multiple times to keep his starting spot. Weidemoyer finished his season off with a silver medal, losing by a point to District 4’s career wins leader, Conner Harer of Montgomery.

And there was Arment Waltenbaugh, a seventh-place finisher last year at states as a freshman who struggled to find a spot in the lineup and maintain a healthy weight at the same time. He came up big in the state team tournament but was a spectator for the individual postseason.

All of the challenges made it important in Clymer’s eyes that the Lions kept their hearts and minds focused on life’s big picture.

“It reinforced to me about the need to continue to grow in Christ,” Clymer said, ” and not let all of this be a byproduct of being talented wrestlers. It is an easy trap to fall into, to focus on performing.

“There is a bigger, better step that goes back to building that foundation. It’s still important to grow through God.”

Morning 첥Ƶ reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at thousenick@mcall.com

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