Biglerville’s Levi Haines loves getting his hand raised at the end of six grueling minutes. But, it’s not his focus entering or during a match.
That might make some around the sport do a double take. Wrestling is a tough, hard-nosed sport in which the final evaluation by people, not in a wrestler’s inner circle, is as simple as wins versus losses.
In the case of Haines, it’s about scoring points. More important, he is more worried about enjoying the sport and having fun.
The Canners talented 106-pound freshman has hit the trifecta this season. Not only has he racked up wins and scored points, he’s had plenty of fun in racking up a spotless 37-0 mark heading into this week’s PIAA Championships at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“If you don’t enjoy it, why would you do it,” Haines said. “With as tough a sport as this is, I’m a firm believer that if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it. There is no reason to put yourself through that torture.”
The torture has been for Haines’ opponents. Since the start of the season in November, he’s been untouchable.
Haines hasn’t wavered from his mantra of “just score points.” Why would he? It’s a philosophy that’s worked so far in running through the regular season and landing a District 3 and Southeast-AA Regional title.
Tech falls and pins were commonplace in the march. His toughest match, a 9-7 decision over Class 3A No.8-ranked wrestler Mason Leiphart, of Dover, came in the semifinals of the Carlisle Holiday Tournament.
“I did to an extent,” said Haines when asked if he expected this much success the early in his career. “I knew I had a good shot at it.
“I learned I can out-wrestle anyone in a six-minute match. It’s a long time to go out there and physically wrestle for six minutes. I love scoring points, and I think a lot of guys have a problem keeping that pace going.”
It’s difficult making the leap from the junior high to the high-school ranks. The season is longer and the competition can be brutal.
Haines has made it look easy. He hasn’t blinked or lost focus, which can happen over a 30 or 40-match season and put a stroke in the loss column for the most accomplished wrestler in this sport.
According to Haines, “I enjoy it too much to take a match off.” He looks at it as an opportunity to score points, and if he doesn’t roll out his best, he is “Taking away from the experience.”
That doesn’t mean Haines doesn’t make mistakes. In last weekend’s regional final against Brandywine Heights’ Noah Frack, the Canners ace got reversed in the second period and even gave up some back points after the move.
“I got a little out of position, and he was able to capitalize,” said Haines, who is ranked No. 3 in the state, according to PA Power Wrestling. “That’s what makes Noah a very good competitor. He can capitalize on the small mistakes.
“It could cost me at Giant Center, and if it does, it does. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s about going out, scoring points, and having fun.”
For most, a trip to the PIAA Championships is a different animal. The Giant Center is a big place, and it can shaky the psyche of the best wrestlers.
Haines isn’t concerned. His preparation started in the offseason, and he has fine-tuned his craft during the regular season. It’s served him well, and now he is ready for the ultimate test on the state level.
“I would say your expectations are high, but you can’t be captive to other people’s expectations,” Haines said. “They are always going to be there, but you have to go out and be free.
“If you are focused on fulfilling what other people want you to do, you aren’t going to have fun. It’s impossible.
“You aren’t going to please everyone. Not everyone is going to like you. You can’t control that, you can only control yourself.”