EAST WHITELAND — More times than not, attitude reflects expectations.
In the wrestling postseason, attitude can make a break a competitor, and expectations are exposed in the ultimate pressure cooker.
At the state tournament in Hershey this past March, Great Valley's Shane Ruhnke's mindset was on full display. He was cranky. He was upset. Frankly, he was miserable. It was quite telling.
Quite impressive, at that.
"I didn't really like my experience in Hershey,' the senior 145-pounder said. "I didn't wrestle to my potential. It was disappointing but it really fueled me. I didn't wrestle to my standards.'
The majority of the wrestlers that enter the Giant Center do not reach the ultimate goal of becoming a state champion. Many walk away upset, yet pleased they just got there. Others have a hard time shaking off the tears, feeling sorry for themselves.
For those like Ruhnke, the frustration has created another level of determination, while his postseason success cultivated just as much confidence.
Ruhnke has progressed in each of his first three seasons, qualifying for districts as a freshman, regionals as a sophomore and states as a junior. Despite going 1-2 in Hershey, those around Great Valley are expecting the next step for Ruhnke will be one on the podium.
"Hershey really opened his eyes,' Patriots coach Owen Brown said. "We knew what we had going into the postseason. I don't think his run through the postseason surprised anybody on our team. It may have caught some people off guard who weren't familiar with Shane.'
Ruhnke is one of four local wrestlers who reached states as junior, along with Avon Grove's Edgar Garcia (106 pounds), Coatesville's Mike Boykin (220) and Downingtown East's Sean Snodgrass (285). Garcia placed eighth, while Boykin took third.
What Ruhnke has in the practice room is former state medalist Kyle Liberato to push him. Brown also credits current Radnor head coach Matt Torresani for Ruhnke's development the past few years. Brown believes his star senior has transformed from a freshman with promise to a more-complete wrestler.
"He's more confident in all the wrestling positions,' Brown said. "He's a much better scrambler and not as straight-forward and rigid. I felt the last couple years he's been very one-dimensional, here I come, here I come, here I come. Now he has a much bigger arsenal to score. More importantly, he can score off other people's mistakes.'
It's the Monday before the start of the season and Ruhnke is drilling with teammate Mayura Kulendran in practice. Both execute their takedowns, but as the minutes pass, Kulendran begins to gasp for air. Ruhnke presses on, barely drawing for more air.
"I'm trying to lead by example,' he said. "I want to show them how to work hard to get to the next level.'
Expecting to win, even against the best competition, and working hard year-round are great places to start for young wrestlers looking for pointers.
It appears Ruhnke has figured out the attitude and expectations necessary for someone who's found success, as well.
"I never really think about pressure,' Ruhnke said. "I just want to wrestle and win each match.'