A-K Valley Class AA wrestling preview: Burrell looking to extend WPIAL championship streak
Wednesday, December 4, 2019 | 7:53 PM
In order to win 13 straight WPIAL Class AA team wrestling championships, there has to be some type of secret formula.
According to seventh-year Burrell coach Josh Shields, who won an individual WPIAL title during his time with the Bucs, there’s no secret sauce. It just is something that has been developed over the course of time.
“We just sort of created a standard, and that’s what we expect from these kids each and every time they are in here,” Shields said. “Not only when they are practicing, but when they are competing. We have a certain level of expectation that we expect from every member on this team.”
The last time the Bucs didn’t win a WPIAL Class AA title, the current Burrell seniors weren’t even in kindergarten yet. During the streak, the Bucs have made something that is so difficult to accomplish look routine. But it isn’t.
“It’s not easy. We still have to work hard for everything we want to do,” junior AJ Corrado said. “Everything we accomplish doesn’t come easy to us just because of everything we accomplished in the past. We have to work hard every day.”
With a target on their back, the Bucs are heading into the 2019-20 season looking to defend their title and hopefully take their season one step further than they have in years past.
“We want to be atop the WPIAL, but we are shooting for bigger goals this year,” Corrado said. “We definitely want to be top four in the state. It hasn’t happened in a while, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”
The Bucs have a roster filled with talent and experience of all ages, and Corrado, along with fellow classmate Ian Oswalt, will be two wrestlers that lead the way.
They both placed fifth at the state tournament last year, and before their trip to Hershey, Oswalt captured a WPIAL title and Corrado was a runner-up in the 138-pound weight class.
Both wrestlers, who are nearing 100 career wins, have even higher expectations for themselves this season, and both said they are looking to do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals.
“I didn’t get what I wanted last year, so I’m hoping to move on in the state tournament,” Oswalt said. “I just have to stay consistent in the practice room, work hard every day and work on things that I might not be very good at.”
Along with Oswalt and Corrado, Shields will have a few seniors that he will be able to lean on throughout the season. Ricky Feroce and Noah Linderman are two of those guys.
Both placed second in the sectional tournament last season. Feroce went on to place seventh at WPIALs while Linderman earned a sixth-place finish.
“We have a good group of senior leadership. Ricky Feroce and Noah Linderman are two guys who have been through the program for four years,” Shields said. “They may not have had the individual success on the state level, but they are two guys that have accomplished a lot through hard work, and that is continuing this year.”
With 13 straight WPIAL titles under their belt, Shields said the Bucs have established a confidence where they expect to win every time they step on the mat. On Friday, the Bucs will travel to Waynesburg to put that confidence to the test against the Raiders, who could be a top team in Class AAA.
The Golden Rams had five wrestlers finish in the top four at the sectional tournament last year and luckily for coach Grant Walters, all five are returning this season.
“We’re focused. It’s a lot different pace and we have been waiting for this for a while,” Walters said. “We look good right now. We’re focused and we’re ready to get into the season.”
Current senior Blake Clark racked up the most wins last year as he wrestled at 138 pounds. He went 22-16 and finished third at the section tournament. He was the only senior to earn a top-four finish, and Highlands received plenty of contributions from their underclassmen.
Clark’s classmate, Chase D’Angelo, is another senior who will contribute this season. He went 12-14 last season, but Walters said his season ended early because of injury.
“He’s back, he’s healthy, and he’s definitely a guy that will have an impact for us this year,” Walters said.
Juniors Jeremiah Saunders and Jeremiah Nelson both turned in solid sophomore seasons. Saunders went 15-13 with 10 pins and earned a second-place finish in the 220-pound bracket at the section tournament. Nelson went 15-11 at 285 pounds and finished fourth in the section tournament.
Sophomores Brock White and Jrake Burford were two of Highlands’ top performers last season. Burford reached the 25-win mark at the 113-pound weight class and placed third in the section and White won 20 matches and finished fourth in the 160-pound weight class at sectionals.
The Raiders return three starters from last season: Isaac Murphy, Luke McElligott and Gio Savko. Murphy went 13-15 but didn’t place in the postseason. He has a career record of 43-35. He placed fourth in the section tournament as a sophomore.
“We are focused on getting our guys better and building for the future, as we try to send off the seniors with some good wins individually,” Riverview wrestling coach Joe Murphy said.
The Vikings graduated five seniors, including fifth-place state finisher Noah Hutcherson, but return a few solid wrestlers who could contribute.
Travis Lasko leads the pack. He went 25-19 and has a career record of 70-49. He finished fourth in the section tournament and also placed fifth at WPIALs at 120 pounds.
Senior Kain Stone is another wrestler who will contribute. He won 19 matches last season and has a career record of 52-48.
Sophomore Micah Hughes finished fourth at the section tournament as a freshman last season and turned in a 14-13 overall record.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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