Alle-Kiski Valley Athletes of the Week: Apollo-Ridge’s Rylee Eaton, Burrell’s Austin Mele

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019 | 8:18 PM


Rylee Eaton

School: Apollo-Ridge

Class: Junior

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Eaton has been instrumental in the Vikings’ (15-5, 7-5) success this season. The three-year starter ranks second on the team in points per game (10.2) and points (193) through 19 games. The 5-foot-9 guard/forward has 11 double-digit scoring performances this season, including a 24-point effort in a win over Section 1-4A rival Highlands. She’s also a member of the Apollo-Ridge track and field team where she competes in shot put and javelin and was a WPIAL qualifier last season in the discus.

How long have you played basketball?

I’ve been playing since fifth grade.

What attracted you to the sport?

The intensity of it and how aggressive you can be on offense and defense.

Is this team peaking at the moment?

There’s always room for improvement. We’re working together as a team really well this year, and everyone is contributing.

What does this team need to improve the most before the postseason?

Offensively, we need to analyze the team that we’re playing to either slow down or run with a team.

What is the strength of this year’s team?

I would say the chemistry we have. When we play together, we know when to cut, post up, or pass. I would say that’s the strength.

Does this team have a motto?

Our thing is, a lot of people doubt us as a team because we’re smaller and because we’re Apollo-Ridge. We just want to prove people wrong who doubt us.

What’s been the big change this season moving up from Class 3A to 4A?

Last year, it was a different atmosphere because (smaller private schools) could recruit people. This year, we’re playing more local teams and the rivalries we have, we get more pumped up to play them.

What teams did you strike a rivalry with?

Definitely Indiana and Burrell, and (they were) very close games.

How nice have the shorter bus rides been?

It’s definitely a lot better because we’re not drowsy when we get off the bus.

Do you think this team is ready for the postseason?

Absolutely. I feel we’re ready for that 100 percent. I believe in our team more than anyone, probably.

Who is the comedian in the locker room?

I’d like to think that I make people laugh when they need to.

Do you have a favorite basketball movie?

I’m pretty sure it’s called “Love and Basketball.” It’s an older movie, but I really like it.

Do you have a favorite NBA team?

I like the Golden State Warriors, and my favorite all-time player is Michael Jordan.

What three words best describe you?

Humble. Kind. Respectful.

What three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with?

Michael Jordan (and) my mom because she’s a very big Michael Jordan fan, and I would want her with me. Just those two.

What is your favorite subject at school?

World history, for sure.

What is something interesting about you that people don’t know?

One of my hobbies is going to sprint car races. My stepdad used to race, and that was a big part of my summer.

Austin Mele

School: Burrell

Class: Senior

Sport: Wrestling

Report card: Mele recorded pins in the 160-pound weight class in the semifinals and finals of last weekend’s WPIAL Class AA team championships and helped pace Burrell to its 13th consecutive team title. A Seton Hill commit, Mele holds a 26-5 record this season, is ranked No. 6 in the state at 160 pounds and leads Burrell in takedowns (63). Mele started at center and middle linebacker for the Burrell football team, where he led the Bucs with 98 tackles. He’s also a member of the Burrell rugby team.

How long have you been wrestling?

It’ll be 13 years this year. I started in kindergarten. I actually wrestled at Highlands for seven years. That’s where it all started out.

How does it feel to bring home Burrell’s 13th straight WPIAL team championship?

It’s still pretty exciting because we’ve done it the four years I’ve been here. It can be taken away every time we go and compete for it.

Is there something in the water? What’s been the secret through the years?

We run a system here that is based off the Pitt-Johnstown system. A lot of us try and wrestle all year around. We’re always lifting. A lot of people are dedicated.

Is there a lot of pressure to live up to Burrell’s wrestling tradition?

There’s a lot of pressure. It’s pretty nerve-racking. There’s a lot of Burrell alumni that attend the WPIAL finals.

It seems every Burrell wrestler looked up to another Burrell wrestler as a kid. Who did you look up to?

It would probably be Damon Greenwald. He was always one of the top guys. What a coincidence that I’ll be attending the same college he’s at.

What does it feel like to be ranked No. 6 in the state?

It feels great. I’ve been wrestling for so long. Knowing I’m ranked in the top six feels great.

What’s it going to take to get Burrell its first PIAA team championship since 2008?

Bonus points throughout the duals. When we have kids on their backs, we have to get pins and points. Preparation.

Are there any wrestlers that you’re hoping to match up with along the way?

Yeah. Saucon Valley has a 160-pounder that is ranked third in the state. I’m kind of looking forward to that.

Who is the next great Burrell wrestler that nobody’s heard of yet?

Probably Nick Salerno, a 113-pounder. He’s a freshman, and I honestly believe he’s going to be the next head-turner. He’s a transfer from Plum.

What kind of advice would you give to your freshman self?

To never to cut anything short. Everyone wants to do less work. It’ll always come back to bite you at one point.

If you were a WWE wrestler, what would your name be?

Beautiful Sky, because who doesn’t want to see beautiful sky?

How many tattoos do you have and what are they?

I have two. I have a rugby ball on my right thigh. On my left shin, it’s the roman numerals of the day my pap passed away with angel wings.

What do you eat on the day of a match?

Pop-Tarts, Little Bites and a couple of oranges.

What’s your favorite food to eat after a match?

Probably pizza.

What three words best describe you?

Energetic. Focused. Humble.

What three people would you like to have dinner with?

Sylvester Stallone, Donald Trump and Biggie Smalls.

What is your favorite subject at school?

Math.

What is something interesting about you that nobody knows?

I love singing. When no one’s home, you can hear me singing in the shower.

What’s your favorite song to sing to in the shower?

“Notorious Thugs,” by Biggie Smalls.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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