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Bound for Pittsburgh

Photos Submitted to Times Observer Sheffield senior Ethan Finch has committed to the University of Pittsburgh for wrestling.

It’s probably a great mentality for a wrestler. Ethan Finch is never satisfied.

If he earns a state medal, he wants a state championship.

The senior at Sheffield wants an NCAA title someday. And someday became closer last week when he committed to the University of Pittsburgh and its Division I wrestling program.

“It definitely feels good to be associated with such a powerhouse team,” said Finch. “A couple things went into my decision-making. Education was a big part, as well as what would help me get on the NCAA podium. I’ve always dreamt of being here since I was a kid watching the NCAA tournament on TV, dreaming about being there and winning it. I’m just very thankful I’ve made it and I’m one step closer to accomplishing my goals.”

If you think it’s a long shot for a teenage kid from a little high school in the mountains of Sheffield, Pa., you don’t know Ethan Finch.

“Once he establishes a goal, he will follow through,” said his father, Jared. “Do not stand in his way of achieving his goals. He wants to be the best … at everything. He will never fully understand how good he is at wrestling. Those older hammers he used to wrestle and get nervous about on the mat, he is now one of those hammers. He doesn’t fully understand that. He was not satisfied when he placed at states last year. Most people would celebrate and be happy for achieving such an accomplishment; Ethan wanted more.”

Finch’s road to the PIAA podium in March was perhaps as impressive as anything that transpired over the three days in the “Sweetest Place on Earth.” After an opening-round loss via pin, Finch had to win three straight to medal at 182 pounds. He did just that, the last of which came by a first-period pin. For good measure, he won his fourth straight match, 6-5, over Tamaqua’s Nate Wickersham, before a 4-1 loss to Dane Csencsits of Saucon Valley sent him to the fifth-place match on Saturday against Burrell’s Richard Feroce. Feroce earned a 4-1 decision, but Finch’s sixth-place finish in Hershey made him the first Sheffield wrestler to earn a state medal since 1992. He finished his junior season with a record of 34-12 and 81 career wins.

“He still has two more goals to accomplish for his high school season,” said Jared. “One-hundred wins and his state championship. We are praying that there is a winter wrestling season so he can accomplish these goals. Once he is done, we head on back to the orthopedic surgeon for his third surgery. He needs to get ready for the collegiate level of competition. Just like junior high to varsity was a big adjustment, high school to college would be an even larger adjustment. Hopefully the life lessons he has learned along the way will assist with this transition. I am extremely thankful Ethan is getting the opportunity to chase his dreams of becoming a NCAA champion. I am super thankful for all the support of our family, friends, coaches, teachers, and this small town of Sheffield. This town just knows how to rally around their kids. They take great pride in knowing that one of their own is representing the small town on such a large stage.”

The third surgery his father speaks of is just another example of the type of person Ethan is; what he has and can overcome.

“People may not know that he has had all of this success on the mat with a torn meniscus,” said Jared. “A few years back he tore his meniscus during practice. We finished out the year with it torn, sacrificed our off-season and football season for the surgery and the six-month recovery time.”

Photo Submitted to the Times Observer Ethan Finch placed fourth at the Super 32 Tournament, which is “one of the toughest events in the country,” according to Pitt coach Keith Gavin.

Jared added: “Only weeks after he was cleared for sports, he re-tore the meniscus in the exact same spot, however, even worse this time. As a parent, this was one of the hardest things to watch him go through. This was a huge blow to his confidence, let alone his mobility and being able to work his moves. We chose not to have a third surgery. Instead, Ethan adjusted to the injury, and overcame the adversity. He was able to place at states last year and has had all of his success this year with only one good knee.

“Being successful and winning are two big motivators for Ethan,” said his father. “We would drive down the highway and would see a nice car or a nice house; the first question he would ask, ‘What do you think they do for a living?’ He started to link, at a young age, high-paying jobs to nice cars and nice houses. This played a role in his goals. As a freshman in high school, he started to say he wanted to become a doctor. Then, when he got a knee injury, he narrowed this profession down even further to become an orthopedic surgeon. Becoming an NCAA champion has always been one of his goals. In his mind, the only way to achieve this goal was through a Division I college. Ethan is always looking for people who run faster than him, who are stronger than him, who wrestle better than him. He understood that this was a key to success. Being surrounded by people better than you makes you become a better competitor.

“Ethan choosing to travel this year and compete on the national stage has been a huge accomplishment for him,” said Jared. “He chose to wrestle for Bad Karma. This exposure to other great athletes — other great competitors — really helped give him additional skill sets. The different coaches have taught him different strategies. This just compliments what he already knows and helps add to his strengths as a great competitor. (At the national) Super 32 (Challenge), I really saw him come into his own. This was the first time I really saw Ethan not only compete, but excel on the national stage. He beat four state champions and a Fargo All-American that weekend. This was a huge accomplishment for him.”

Ethan said COVID has “definitely made an impact on my recruiting since NCAA made the rule you could not have college visits as an athletic prospect. And also tournaments being canceled and limited practices.

“But everything in the end ended up working out perfectly after being ranked in the nation by (www.flowrestling.org),” said Ethan.

“Ethan is a big, athletic wrestler with a raw skill-set that we like,” said Pitt coach Keith Gavin. “He recently wrestled in the Super 32 tournament, one of the toughest events in the country, and finished fourth there while earning some impressive wins. We’re happy that he decided to become a Panther.”

Maybe not as happy as Ethan himself.

“I’ve definitely come to the realization that everything is finally coming together after all these years and sacrifices everybody has made for me,” he said. “And I hope I can encourage everybody else to always work your hardest and never settle. I’m definitely most certainly ready to take my career to the next level and I’m ecstatic to be a Panther.

“Not only can Pitt offer me an amazing athletic career with unlimited resources to get to my peak potential, they can offer me a high-class education level that would help me with the rest of my life and my academic and professional future,” said Ethan.

Ethan had two big prerequisites when picking out his college: A good pre-med/biology major and a school that offered the best chance at him becoming a NCAA champion.

“Ethan had a great opportunity to go to other smaller D-I schools and be on the starting lineup, but he felt that Pittsburgh would have better wrestlers and coaches to push him,” said Jared. “He would rather come into a super-strong team being third string as opposed to coming into a team where he could be a starter and one of the better ones on the team. Pittsburgh has a great medical program. This choice captured both of his qualifications. This choice was all him. He has wanted to go to Pitt for many years, and this was a choice that he needed to make.”

The second oldest of four, Ethan moved to Sheffield when he was 7. He’s always been active… in soccer, baseball, football, track & field, trapshooting and, of course, wrestling.

“First impressions, you would think Ethan is shy and reserved,” said his father. “He plays his emotions very close to his soul. In truth, he is watching … everything. He is a lot smarter than most people think, and he is really funny and witty once you get to know (and) understand him. He is stubborn. This plays into the competitor side of things.

“Over a period of six weeks in October and November, Ethan and I traveled 10,696 miles and spent a total of 188 hours behind the wheel traveling to his competitions or practices,” said Jared. “This doesn’t even include his 6 a.m. weightlifting workouts before school. We have traveled as far south as South Carolina and as far west as Missouri. His freshman year was a huge eye-opener for him. He was a good wrestler in junior high, but that transition to varsity is a large step. Once he transitioned to the varsity level, I stepped back and allowed life to teach him the lessons he needed to learn. He ended up 16-14 and not making it out of districts. It hurt to watch as a parent, but in order to compete you need to feel that agony of defeat. He needed his freshman year to make him into the wrestler he is today. His mom and I would continue to encourage him, but not force him. There is a big difference between the two. He needs to take ownership in the choices he makes to help mold him into a young adult.”

Division I is a far cry from being named the District 9 Tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler, a first for Sheffield.

“Ethan has spent his lifetime learning these skills and life lessons,” said Jared. “He will spend another lifetime perfecting them.

“I am still waiting for him to learn how to put his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper,” said his dad. “This would be a fantastic lesson to learn for the sake of his roommate next year.”

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