Burrell, Kiski Area, Valley wrestling teams gear up for WCCA tournament
By: Doug Gulasy
Wednesday, January 3, 2018 | 7:12 PM
Burrell, Kiski Area and Valley faced difficult competition over the holidays, and they'll get more of it this weekend.
The 65th annual Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Norwin, features both defending WPIAL team champions — Burrell and Kiski Area — plus a bevy of individual WPIAL and PIAA championship hopefuls.
That means a chance for wrestlers to test themselves as the schedule begins to ramp up.
“I push for them to get the toughest competition … because if we're trying to get people past the WPIALs and (PIAA Southwest) regionals, we need to see competition like at the county tournament,” Valley coach Dane Johnson said. “It's kind of a wake-up call. I think it's a good gauge to see where you're at because if you can go there and place, I think you can make a run at the end of the season.”
Kiski Area is the two-time defending WCCA champion, and junior Darren Miller and Danny Starr are returning individual champions.
Burrell and Kiski Area got two and three medalists, respectively, at last weekend's Powerade Christmas Tournament, while Valley had two at the Southmoreland Holiday Classic.
“Tournaments like Powerade and WCCA exposes your weaknesses so you can go back to the room and work on them,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “There are a lot of good wrestlers in the county.”
Levett eyeing gold
Noah Levett reached the finals of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament each of the past three seasons, but all three matches ended the same way: with a loss.
He lost to Franklin Regional's Devin Brown and Spencer Lee, both three-time state champions, in 2015 and '17, respectively. He lost by 2-1 decision to Southmoreland's Tyler Griffith, a two-time WCCA champion, in 2016.
Suffice to say the Kiski Area senior is growing a bit tired of silver.
“This year, I've got to win it,” Levett said. “I'm sick of making finals and losing to Spencer Lee or Devin Brown or (Griffiths), all top dogs. This year is my year to get the title.”
Levett, a Bucknell recruit and two-time PIAA medalist, is coming off a fourth-place finish at Powerade.
Ready to dual
Valley competed in a pair of individual tournaments to begin the season, but the Vikings finally will get a chance to wrestle as a team Wednesday.
After a pair of canceled matches, Valley will host Riverview for a Section 3-AA (B) match Wednesday night.
The Vikings' first two scheduled section matches were against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and Jeannette. CWNC does not have a wrestling program, while Jeannette has a cooperative agreement with Hempfield.
“It's the beginning of the season, so the big thing is conditioning and getting back into wrestling season, especially for these kids who just came out of football, and getting a little better each day, which I think some of them have been doing that,” Johnson said.
Lightweights heavy in depth
The pairings meeting for the WCCA tournament isn't until Thursday, but the deepest and most competitive weight class will be at 106 pounds.
Norwin sophomore Kurtis Phipps is coming off winning the title at the prestigious Powerade Tournament, but three others — Hempfield junior Kyle Burkholder, Latrobe senior Brady Sherback and Burrell sophomore Trent Valovchik — placed in the top eight.
Burkholder and Sherback dropped from 113 pounds last week to compete at Powerade, but they could go back to 113 this week. Still, Franklin Regional freshman Carter Dibert, will be there along with Hempfield freshman Ethan Berginc, Greensburg Salem freshman Cody Kaufman, Mt. Pleasant sophomore Damian George, Derry junior Kace Sabedra and Latrobe junior Marino Angelicchio.
“I'm looking forward to the competition,” Valovchik said. “I want to face the Class AAA guys to see how I'll fare. There is going to be some tight matches. It's always a tough tournament.”