Burrell must retool to keep streak of 15 straight WPIAL Class 2A championships going

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021 | 4:53 PM


Burrell wrestling is looking to celebrate a “Sweet 16” this winter.

If the 15-time defending WPIAL Class 2A champions are to continue their dominance, they’re going to have to replace a trio of talented wrestlers who graduated: champ A.J. Corrado, state runner-up Ian Oswalt and 24-match winner Aaron Edwards.

With a championship streak as long as the Bucs have, this scenario has surfaced before. As they have in the past, they’ll have to retool to keep the tradition going.

“You certainly can’t replace those guys, and that’s not what we’re asking this team to do,” coach Josh Shields said. “But it does require different people to step up. We’ve lost guys before, and new guys have had to step up, and that’s what’s kept this program successful year after year. We’ll have a young team that we need to develop and get better, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”

The Bucs have a trio of seniors — Damian Barr, Shawn Szymanski and Cole Clark — who will be counted upon as leaders in the room. Each finished with a winning record last season.

“They’ve all been guys that have had success for us and have really contributed a lot to the team part of it,” Shields said. “We finished third at the state duals last year and without those three guys, we wouldn’t have accomplished that.

“Last year was so different with the restrictions for qualifications because of the pandemic leaving a limited number of qualifiers that advanced each weekend. I believe all three of those guys would’ve qualified for the state tournament in a normal year. I know they are all excited and want to end their Burrell high school career at the state tournament and be in contention for a state medal.”

Cooper Hornack returns after an impressive freshman season in which he went 37-3 and was the WPIAL Class 2A champion at 106 pounds and the runner-up to Hickory’s Louie Gill at the state tournament. Hornack received high school All-American status with a seventh-place finish at the 2021 NHSCA High School Nationals in Virginia Beach.

He’ll be looking for an encore performance this winter.

“For him to finish second place in the state as a freshman was outstanding,” Shields said. “He had a great year. The week prior, he beat (Gill), but in the state championship, (Gill) had a better six minutes than we did, so there’s some added motivation there to get back on the mat.

“He has his goals set high this year, and he’s definitely someone we’re going to rely on to produce. Even though he’s an underclassmen, he’ll be a leader as the highest returning state place winner on this team.”

Junior Niko Ferra will be another key contributor after finishing 20-11 last season. Shields also said to keep an eye on two freshmen — Isaac Lacinski and Luke Boylan.

“They’ve both had success at the youth levels as well as the junior high level,” Shields said. “They have experience, but varsity wrestling is completely different from what they’ve faced. They’ll take some lumps, but both of them love the sport of wrestling and have lofty goals that they want to accomplish in their career. I feel both will improve leaps and bounds throughout the year, and we’ll see where they end up.”

Knoch

The most successful wrestler in Knights history, Eli Reese, concluded a strong career last season, but there’s some talent returning.

Reese, who is now at Gannon, became the first Knoch wrestler to medal at states with a fifth-place finish last year. He was also the WPIAL runner-up at 215.

Matt Frank (113), Nick Golab (126), Chris Michaux (138), Anthony Nicolazzo (145), Aaron Butler (152), Gavin McGowen (160), Nate Becker (215) and Logan Klemm (285) all return. Becker, Butler, McGowan and Michaux are seniors.

The Knights also have a pair of freshmen that show promise: Wyatt Foster and Miranda Laurejevic.

Knoch coach Bob Waldron said Laurejevic is a Ninja Warrior athlete.

Riverview

The Raiders had three wrestlers last season, but the numbers are up with a dozen on the varsity roster. Riverview coach Joe Murphy said the team is inexperienced, but he’s pleased with the increased numbers.

Senior Gio Savko was one of the three wrestlers from last season and has bulked up in the offseason. He’ll bump up to a heavier weight class from the 172 that he wrestled at last year, where he finished third in the section.

Brayden Layhew, a sophomore, had some success in junior high last year and will look to carry that over to varsity.

Valley

Similar to Riverview, Valley had only three wrestlers for the majority of last year but has a much better turnout this season. The Vikings have about a dozen out for the team. They have only one senior and one junior. The rest are freshmen and sophomores who have varying degrees of experience.

The Vikings started with four wrestlers last year, but Micah Hughes was able to wrestle only one match before missing the rest of the season. Hughes is back and ready to go. He was a fifth-place finisher at WPIALs two years ago and advanced to regionals.

Charles Perkins, one of the three wrestlers last year, placed fourth at WPIALs as a freshman, missing advancing to regionals by one spot with a smaller field because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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