WPIAL wrestling champion Kiski Area motivated to add PIAA title
Tuesday, December 4, 2018 | 8:45 PM
Kiski Area held an optional wrestling workout on the final Monday of November, with some of its athletes and coaches taking part in the first day of hunting season.
The Cavaliers are hunting more than deer, though: The back-to-back WPIAL Class AAA champions have bigger game in mind once the season begins, with the first PIAA championship in school history at the top of the list.
“It’s really motivating because we always fall a little bit short of our goals all the time, especially for states,” junior Nick Delp said. “It just motivates us a little more walking by those trophies every day. … We just want to have a young team that wants to be successful and finally gets our gold.”
The wrestlers walk by the evidence of the past three seasons of success every time they enter Kiski Area’s wrestling room: Multiple trophy cases loaded with hardware sit in the hallway outside the door, and group photos of championship teams cover the walls.
In fact, Kiski Area coach Chris Heater is running out of room: He couldn’t fit all the Cavaliers’ trophies in the cases, and the team photo of last season’s WPIAL championship and PIAA runner-up team is outside the wrestling room instead of inside with the others.
That may be the No. 1 example of a “good problem.”
“I feel like I’ve been lucky in where I came into high school,” junior Jack Blumer said. “I have two WPIAL championships, and I just want to get two more to finish out my high school career, which would be nice — and a first place at states would be nice.”
Two seasons ago Kiski Area won the WPIAL and finished third in the state, bouncing back from a quarterfinal loss to Bethlehem Catholic to win two duals in the consolation bracket, including the third-place match against Cathedral Prep. Last season, the Cavaliers defended their WPIAL title and won their first three state matches before losing 38-22 to Bethlehem Catholic in the final.
As much as Kiski Area appreciated the second-place finish, it felt worse for some of the wrestlers than the third-place finish in 2017 because the Cavaliers lost their final match.
“You get the taste of blood in your mouth, and you just want to keep winning,” senior Troy Kuhn said. “We got stumped last year in the state finals. We went to Chocolate World and stuff, but it wasn’t the same. Coming off a loss, it’s never fun.”
The Cavaliers lost some strong seniors from last season, including a pair of big pieces: Isaac Reid, who won WPIAL and PIAA individual titles, and Noah Levett, who won a WPIAL championship, finished third at the state tournament and became the program’s all-time wins leader.
Still, plenty remains. Although Kiski Area doesn’t have the numbers it boasted in past seasons, it’s still a loaded wrestling room — two returning WPIAL champions in Blumer and senior Cam Connor, a pair of Division I commits in Connor (Penn) and senior Darren Miller (Bucknell), more than a dozen wrestlers with significant varsity experience — including postseason — and several freshmen ready to battle for spots.
“It’s another pretty nice group,” Heater said. “This seems to be a really focused group. When it’s business time and we’re practicing and working on things, these guys are pretty focused. I think it’s one of the better groups we’ve had as far as guys being good partners for each other and helping make the other guy better.”
Starting spots are at a premium, making the wrestling room battles all the more competitive.
“We have a couple guys who certainly could be starters for anybody, and they’re going to be brawling for a spot in the lineup,” Heater said.
Once again, Kiski Area will have strength in the middle, with Miller at 126 or 132, sophomore Sammy Starr at 132 or 138, junior Jared Curcio at 138 or 145, senior Colin Murray at 138 or 145, touted freshman Enzo Morlacci at 138 or 145, Connor at 152, Blumer at 160 and Delp at 170.
Antonio Giordano looks to begin the season at 106, with senior Julian Jones, a two-year starter, at 113. Junior Dom Giordano will hold down the 120 spot, with junior Luke Lacaria capable of wrestling 126 or 132 after joining the program.
Seniors Hunter Dilts and Dylan Mullen will compete at 182, sophomore Brayden Roscosky will wrestle at 195, Kuhn and sophomore Jack Dilts will battle at 220 and senior Zack Insko and freshman Stone Joseph will battle at 285.
Kiski Area will begin the season Friday and Saturday at the Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament, where the Cavaliers are three-year defending champions. They’ll visit Norwin to open Section 1-AAA competition Dec. 12.
“We all have the goal to be state champions, and everyone’s working hard to get there as a team,” Murray said.
A stretch of four consecutive losses between late December and mid-January kept the Foxes out of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs last season, but they hope to return this spring.
Key returners include senior Avery Bursick and junior Eddie Farell and senior Sean Mahon, all section medalists last season.
The Foxes will begin the season Saturday at the Hampton Dawg Duals, where they won four of five matches last season.
The Knights are hoping for more team success this season after finishing 3-11 in 2017-18, including 1-4 in Section 3-AAA.
Although team wins leader Eric Green graduated, Knoch brings back senior Saavon Mosby after he went 28-7 and claimed a section medal. The team’s strength lies in the junior class, with Guy DeLeonardis, Kameron Grassi, Brendan Hinchberger and Earnie Zilka among the top returners there.
Knoch will compete at the Hickory tournament Friday and Saturday.
Plum won three dual matches last season, and the Mustangs’ success came where it counted: in Section 1-AAA competition. Those three victories enabled Plum to qualify for the postseason, where the Mustangs fell to Franklin Regional in the section fifth-place match.
All but two starters return from that team as Plum seeks another postseason return. Seniors Talon Auth and Colin Stecik and juniors Gavin James and Cole Yocca are the leading returning winners from last season.
Plum opens the season at the Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.