A-K Valley wrestlers prepare to punch ticket to Hershey

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Friday, March 5, 2021 | 5:34 PM


Normally at this time of the year, wrestlers from around the WPIAL have already punched their ticket to Hershey to compete for a state championship, but this year is like no other.

To try to mitigate the spread of covid-19, the PIAA limited the number of wrestlers in each weight class to eight for the state tournament. To do so, it added an extra tournament in the qualification process. The top five wrestlers in each weight class at last weekend’s PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional advanced to this weekend’s West Super Regional.

Burrell’s Cooper Hornack (106), AJ Corrado (160) and Ian Oswalt (138) and Knoch’s Eli Reese (215) qualified and will travel back to IUP’s Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex this weekend to try to place themselves among the top eight wrestlers in the state in their weight class.

Hornack and Reese are looking to advance to Hershey for the first time. Corrado and Oswalt are looking to return to the championship stage after runner-up finishes last season.

“I feel like I’m ready, but with this weird schedule, and how it’s new to everybody, I’m kinda getting used to it now,” Corrado said. “I don’t think I’ll start as slow as I did last week.”

With a 28-0 record, Corrado has been tearing through his opponents this season. When it came to the Southwest Regional last weekend, however, he got off to a little bit of a slow start. He earned a 4-3 decision over Central Martinsburg’s Andrew McMonagle in the first round before tallying a 7-0 decision against Philipsburg Osceola’s Hunter Weitoish in the semifinals.

He then finished off his day strong by pinning Carlynton’s Oleg Melnyk in 3 minutes, 58 seconds in the championship match. As the day went on, Corrado got stronger. With the extra tournament this weekend, he feels like he’s continuing to get stronger as the season goes on because he has one goal in sight.

“With the extra practice time and the extra tournaments, it’s more time to get more matches in,” Corrado said. “You get to wrestle better kids … so it prepares you more for the end goal.”

While Corrado earned a spot at the top of the podium last weekend, Oswalt placed second, falling to Glendale’s Brock McMillen in the finals, 5-2.

The wrestlers faced off in the regional and the PIAA finals last season, and McMillen came out on top both times. Oswalt is looking forward to another opportunity this weekend and feels like he knows what it will take to finally get a win.

“I need to get a takedown, literally,” Oswalt said. “I need to move my feet. I need to be the aggressor, which I normally am in that match because he doesn’t open up that much, but that’s how you’re supposed to win. You’re supposed to stay in good position. I just need to get him out of position.”

In his quest to get back to the PIAA finals, Oswalt won his fourth WPIAL title, but while dealing with an injury for most of the season, he didn’t wrestle as many matches as he would’ve hoped. So far this season, he’s 19-1.

Heading into the Super Regional, Oswalt is starting to feel like he’s getting back to his top form.

“I think I’m coming up toward my peak, conditioning and performance wise,” Oswalt said. “I didn’t necessarily wrestle as many matches as I would’ve liked to this year or practiced as much as I should have, but I’m feeling confident and I’m feeling better. I feel like I’m where I need to be for this weekend, and I’m just excited.”

This past weekend, Hornack won the 106-pound weight class with an exciting 4-3 victory over West Branch’s Landon Bainey in the second ultimate tie-breaker. Reese placed third at 215 with a 5-3 decision over Parker Moore from Philipsburg Osceola.

Hornack and Corrado earned No. 1 seeds for this weekend, while Oswalt was given the No. 3 seed and Reese was seeded fifth.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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