Behind 7 returning WPIAL qualifiers, Hampton wrestlers determined to snap playoff drought

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Saturday, December 2, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton wrestling team’s season-ending banquet last March was more about eyeing the future than remembering the past.

Returning seven WPIAL qualifiers from last season’s senior-less roster, the Talbots turned their focus to ending a three-year playoff drought and contending for the Section 5-2A team title.

“We didn’t have any seniors,” coach Nick Endres said. “At the banquet, we looked at our junior class and shared with them that they are the leaders this upcoming year. That day was the first day we talked about already looking forward to competing for the section team championship.”

The Talbots narrowly missed the WPIAL playoffs last season. A 37-28 loss to Knoch denied Hampton (3-9 overall) a top-three finish in the section and a WPIAL postseason berth in its first year as a Class 2A program.

But energy is high this winter in the Hampton wrestling room. The Talbots return sophomore Dustin Kerr (20-12 at 133), a PIAA Southwest Regional qualifier, and six other WPIAL qualifiers — seniors Isabella McNutt (9-10 at 107), Alan Danner (22-15, 152), Caleb Rihn (17-9, 172), Aiden Petry (16-13, 189) and Nate Glock (19-19, 285) and sophomore Jonovan McKelvey (11-17, 215).

“It’s a lot better than last year,” Danner said. “Hopefully, we can end up winning sections. I think everybody in here is determined for that and worked a lot harder to get to that goal.”

Rihn, sidelined with a knee injury, and Danner placed third at sections last season and reached the second day of the WPIAL championships, and McNutt became the first female wrestler in program history to advance to the WPIAL tournament and had a busy offseason with USA Wrestling.

Other returning wrestlers include seniors Logan Poslusny (13-16 at 121) and Zach Campbell (7-15 at 127) and sophomore Logan Glock (5-13, 172). The Talbots also welcome back senior Seamus McLaughlin, who will contend for a starting job at 172 or 189 after missing last season with a knee injury.

“We are really eyeing that section title, but it takes everybody,” said Endres, a third-year coach. “We have some good, experienced guys who made it to the WPIAL tournament and had success there. Our whole senior group is starting to believe as a team that they can accomplish big things and not just individually.”

Hampton kicked off the season at the Chartiers-Houston Invitational on Dec. 1-2 and was set to meet North Catholic on Dec. 6 in the section opener. The Talbots also are traveling to three other in-season tournaments — the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic on Dec. 28-29 at West Mifflin, the Allegheny County Championships on Jan. 19-20 at Fox Chapel and the Fred Bell Tournament on Jan 26-27 at Grove City.

The Talbots host Knoch on Dec. 20 in a match that could go a long way in deciding their playoff fate.

“That’s the match we are circling on the calendar,” Endres said.

Kerr is hoping to build on an encouraging freshman season. He placed second at sectionals and fifth in the WPIAL championships at 127 to reach the PIAA Southwest Regionals, where he was two wins shy of making states. He spent the offseason improving his strength and quickness, which will make him more effective from the bottom position.

“I got faster and a lot stronger,” Kerr said. “I feel like I’m getting a lot better at bottom. Last year in the postseason, I didn’t do as good because I struggled at bottom. … Now I’ve figured it out. If I think I’m going to get out, I’m going to get out.”

Danner also trained hard this offseason to prepare for his final season. He said he got stronger and quicker while playing football for the first time.

“I just want to work as hard as I can and see how it goes,” Danner said. “I feel a lot quicker. I also spent time in the weight room. I’m the same weight as I was last year, but I think I’m definitely stronger.”

The Talbots don’t have the star power of some recent seasons, but they are deep and the 25-wrestler roster allows them to avoid forfeits in dual meets.

“Right now, on paper, we should fill every weight class, which is always the first box you want to check off entering a season,” Endres said. “Our numbers are up at all three levels, from the high school down to the middle school. It’s very encouraging.”

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