A-K Valley wrestling notebook: Burrell’s Oswalt gains confidence after WCCA triumph
By: Doug Gulasy
Wednesday, January 9, 2019 | 6:00 PM
Ian Oswalt made some tweaks to his technique after he lost to good friend Kurtis Phipps in the semifinals of the Powerade Christmas Tournament in late December, knowing he might see the Norwin junior again in another week’s time.
The adjustments paid off for Oswalt, who knocked off Phipps, 2-1, in the 120-pound championship of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament last week at Norwin.
“I wasn’t as nervous as last time,” said Oswalt, a Burrell sophomore. “I just realized I needed to go out there relaxed. It doesn’t really matter what’s on the mat, it’s the same as any other mat.”
With a raucous crowd packed into Norwin’s auxiliary gym, Oswalt stunned the home crowd by using a third-period reversal and riding Phipps out for the win.
“His mat IQ is above and beyond any 10th-grader that I’ve ever coached,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “The way he’s able to make in-match adjustments or even week-by-week adjustments is that of really a college-level wrestler.”
Oswalt lost 4-0 to Phipps at Powerade, and he said he worked at moving better on his feet and when on bottom, and that helped him in the rematch. Shields said Oswalt also had more confidence, and it showed.
A WPIAL Class AA champion and PIAA fourth-place medalist as a freshman, Oswalt has plenty of big victories under his belt. But the win over Phipps, a WPIAL Class AAA champion and PIAA runner-up in 2018, could give Oswalt an even bigger boost.
“I know we’re good friends and stuff,” Oswalt said of Phipps, his practice partner at Young Guns Wrestling Club, “but I think that was the best win of my high school career so far. It gives me a lot of confidence to carry on for the rest of the season. I know I’m going to run into kids like that the rest of the season, so that gave me more confidence.”
The WPIAL team wrestling playoffs are drawing near, and playoff berths are in play.
Top-ranked Burrell (3-1, 3-0 Section 3-AA), the 12-time defending WPIAL Class AA champion, clinched a playoff berth with a win over Summit Academy. Kiski Area (5-0, 3-0 Section 1-AAA), the back-to-back WPIAL Class AAA champion, defeated Plum, and can clinch with a win over Central Catholic on Saturdy.
Class AA No. 8 Valley (3-0, 3-0) can secure a fourth consecutive playoff berth with a Section 3-AA win Thursday over South Allegheny.
Burrell senior Bryan Gaul missed the start of the season with a hand injury he suffered in the Surge tournament, but he’s back in the Bucs’ lineup and reached a career milestone last week.
A pin of Owen Burroughs in Burrell’s 66-6 Section 3-AA victory over Highlands gave Gaul 100 career victories.
“It’s a great goal to accomplish,” Gaul said. “It’ll forever be a memory, so it’s a great goal. But 100 wins isn’t my goal for the year. It’s great to reach 100 wins, but I won’t be satisfied until I get a state medal.”
Gaul added three wins to his career total at the WCCA tournament, overcoming a first-round loss to finish fifth in the 132-pound bracket.
Three Fox Chapel wrestlers earned medals at the Tool City Tournament last weekend in Meadville.
Senior Avery Bursick led the way with a third-place finish at 145 pounds, advancing to the semifinals before he dropped to the consolation bracket with a loss, then getting two consecutive wins to take third. He pinned Maplewood’s Jesse Parker in the third-place match.
Junior Ed Farrell placed fifth at 220 pounds, beating Olean’s Tanner Hulse in the fifth-place match. Junior Alex Wecht took seventh at 160, beating Sharpsville’s Tyler Layman in the seventh-place match.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.