Alle-Kiski Valley wrestling notebook: Class AAA steps into spotlight

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Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 6:59 PM


The WPIAL’s top Class AA wrestlers took the stage last weekend. Now the Class AAA competitors will join them.

The individual portion of the Class AAA season begins Saturday with sectional tournaments at Kiski Area (Section 1), Connellsville (2), Fox Chapel (3) and Chartiers Valley (4).

Action begins at 9:30 a.m. at all three sites, with the championship and consolation finals scheduled to begin at about 4 p.m. The top five wrestlers in each bracket advance to the WPIAL Class AAA championships next week at Canon-McMillan.

Thrice as nice?

Kiski Area senior Darren Miller goes into the Section 1-AAA tournament in his home gym in a familiar position: as the favorite.

Miller (35-1), the top seed in the 126-pound bracket, has a chance to become a three-time section champion.

After losing in the 106-pound championship bout in an overtime tiebreaker to Penn-Trafford’s Job Chishko as a freshman, Miller beat Norwin’s Kurtis Phipps for the 106-pound title in 2017 and pinned Latrobe’s Enzo Angelicchio for the 120-pound championship last season.

Miller, whose lone loss this season came via 3-2 decision to North Hills’ Sam Hillegas in the Powerade Christmas Tournament finals, faces a potential rematch with second-seeded Colton Camacho of Franklin Regional. Miller beat Camacho, 4-3, to win the title at the season-opening Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament.

Two other Kiski Area wrestlers have a chance to win their second section title: senior Cam Connor (39-2), the top seed at 152 pounds, who won a championship in 2016; and junior Nick Delp (36-4), the top seed at 170, who won a title last season. Junior Jack Blumer (35-3) and sophomore Brayden Roscosky (32-6), the top seeds at 160 and 195 pounds, are aiming for their first titles.

Oz-struck

Coming off a second consecutive WPIAL Class AA individual championship, Burrell’s Ian Oswalt goes into this weekend’s PIAA Southwest Regional as the wrestler to beat in the 120-pound bracket.

Oswalt (41-2) was one of nine WPIAL wrestlers to receive the No. 1 seeds in their weight class for the regional tournament, which begins at 1 p.m. Friday and concludes Saturday night at IUP. He finished third at 113 pounds last season.

The top six wrestlers in each weight class at regionals qualify for the PIAA individual championships in early March in Hershey. Burrell has 10 wrestlers competing: Shawn Szymanski (106 pounds), Nick Salerno (113), Oswalt, Trent Valovchik (126), Bryan Gaul (132), A.J. Corrado (138), Noah Linderman (152), Austin Mele (160), Ricky Feroce (182) and Zach Rupert (195).

Mele on the mend

Mele ran into the dreaded “Mr. Murphy” at the WPIAL Class AA championships, but the Burrell senior believes he’ll get the best of the opponent beginning this weekend.

Mele, who suffered an ankle injury late in his 160-pound semifinal match against Quaker Valley’s Patrick Cutchember that forced him to default out of three matches, said he will compete at the PIAA regional.

“I will be 100 percent ready to wrestle,” Mele said.

The injury occurred late in the third period of Mele’s semifinal match as he drove for a takedown while down one point. After he injury-defaulted in that bout, he attempted to wrestle Bentworth’s Owen Petrisek in the consolation bracket but didn’t have his usual burst, causing him to injury-default in the first period. He then defaulted out of the fifth-place match, leading to a sixth-place finish.

“That’s Mr. Murphy right there, right?” said Burrell coach Josh Shields, referencing the Bucs’ variation of Murphy’s Law. “He’s been having a phenomenal year all year, beating some of the top guys in the state, and boom, he’s got a bum ankle.

The sixth-place finish allowed Mele to qualify for the regional tournament, where he’ll wrestle Chestnut Ridge’s Seth Holderbaum in the first round Friday. Mele finished sixth at regionals last season, qualifying for states.

‘Live and learn’

Valley’s David Schuffert had a shocking end to his run at the WPIAL Class AA championships, getting pinned by Burgettstown’s Riley Kemper in the finals at heavyweight to finish as runner-up. It was particularly surprising given Schuffert beat Kemper in late December at the Southmoreland Tournament.

Schuffert (30-4) could get another chance at Kemper at regionals, but it wouldn’t come until the finals. They’re seeded on opposite ends of the heavyweight bracket.

“I guess I’ll just live and learn on this one,” said Schuffert, who finished third at regionals last season. “There’s going to be tougher opponents (at regionals).”

Senior 170-pounder Noah Hutcherson and junior 120-pounder Travis Lasko also will represent Valley at regionals.

King pins

Kiski Area drives for pins maybe more than any team in the state, and now the Cavaliers have the stats to back that up.

According to statistics tracked on PA-Wrestling.com, three Kiski Area competitors rank among the PIAA’s top 10 pinners: Blumer, tied for second with 27; Connor, tied for fourth with 26; and Delp, tied for eighth with 25. Perhaps just as impressively, none of the three has lost by pin this season.

Considering Kiski Area gives out an award for its top pinner at its end-of-year banquet, there figures to be some strong competition for that in the next few weeks.

Rams ready

Highlands didn’t have a qualifier for the WPIAL Class AAA championships last season, which doubles as the Class AAA PIAA Southwest Regional, but the Golden Rams will be represented at the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional this weekend.

Junior Blake Clark qualified for regionals after finishing fifth at 138 pounds at last weekend’s WPIAL tournament, beating Avonworth’s Joey Boughton in the fifth-place match. A top-six finish at IUP would make Clark (22-13) Highlands’ first state tournament qualifier since Allen Cratsenberg and Nolan Wise accomplished the feat in 2014.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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