Brendan Finnerty leads successful TJ contingent at county mat tournament

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Friday, January 24, 2020 | 5:27 PM


Brendan Finnerty didn’t just win the 160-pound weight class while representing Thomas Jefferson at the recent Allegheny County wrestling championships.

He dominated.

Seeded No. 1, Finnerty breezed to the county title by recording two falls followed by three consecutive major-decision victories.

“My goal was to win the tournament, just like every other tournament,” Finnerty said. “I thought I performed well, but it wasn’t my best work. I know I can be better.”

The TJ senior rolled past Carlynton’s sixth-seeded Oleg Melnyk, 9-1, in the championship round, after cruising past No. 5 Alex Wecht of Fox Chapel, 10-0, and Ethan Uechi of North Hills, 11-1.

Finnerty opened the tournament by pinning Montour’s Ben Koch and Carrick’s Darrin Devault.

He improved to 28-4 after posting 30-8 and 32-10 records the past two years. Finnerty’s win against Wecht was the 100th of his career. He closed out the tournament with a 101-35 career mark.

“Brendan has started to grasp what it means to finish a match,” TJ coach Michael Ladick said. “Coach (Gus) Mizia has been adamant about our guys scoring and has worked with Brendan a lot this season. Brendan has listened to his advice and started to open matches up instead of keeping things close. It has been quite a game changer.

“Brendan got his 100th win of his career, topping off a great tournament.”

Finnerty, who plans to continue wrestling in college at Seton Hill, finished third and fifth at the county event as a sophomore and junior. Earlier this season, he took first place at the Burgettstown tournament.

The humble TJ grappler has modest goals for the remainder of the season.

“I want to be the best version of myself and perform my best,” Finnerty said, “and the rest will show.”

TJ ended up with seven medalists at the county championships held Jan. 18 at Fox Chapel.

Junior Kale Buckiso was at 138, sophomore Brian Finnerty was fourth at 170, senior Michael Zacur and junior Trystan Alava took fifth at 145 and 182, senior Drake Sybolt finished seventh at 170, and junior Naythan Krutules was eighth at 126.

Buckiso boosted his record this season to 20-5. He was 27-11 and 26-10 as a freshman and sophomore. Zacur went to 24-9, after going 27-10 and 28-12 the past two years.

Brian Finnerty, Brendan’s younger brother, improved to 23-5.

“It was great to see our veterans place,” Ladick said, “but a great private victory turned public was (the performance of) first-year wrestler Drake Sypolt. Drake has worked incredibly hard, and we were so happy to see it pay off.”

Other TJ competitors at the county event were freshmen Aidan Stella (106) and Gabe Galioto (106), sophomore Mclaine Stanek (126), juniors Ben Eckenrod (132) and Terry Newbegin (195) and seniors Jake Dorsey (152), Brandon Sobeck (160), Jake Fisher (182), Denver Haynes (220) and Logan Danielson (285).

“It has to be noted that we need to thank coach Ron Frank at Fox Chapel and his staff for allowing us to enter 17 wrestlers into the tournament,” Ladick said. “The PIAA rule change where more than one wrestler can be entered into a weight has been a welcomed addition, and for the county tournament to have over 500 wrestlers compete was quite a sight to see.”

The top 10 in the final team standings were Pine-Richland (223 points), North Allegheny (222.5), Chartiers Valley (173), Mt. Lebanon (172.5), Elizabeth Forward (169), Thomas Jefferson (167), Hampton (166), North Hills (157), South Fayette (142) and Fox Chapel (128).

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