Burrell wrestlers overcome early upset, defeat Derry

Wednesday, January 3, 2024 | 10:15 PM

How good has the Burrell wrestling team been so far?

Hmm, the second-ranked Buccaneers were pretty good Wednesday night, remaining unbeaten with a 40-18 victory over No. 8 Derry.

“I’m satisfied. It was a good team win,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said.

Derry, despite an upset victory early in the match from freshman Mason Horwat against PIAA champion Cooper Hornack at 145 pounds, was unable to keep pace with host Burrell in the WPIAL Section 6-2A match for first place.

Burrell (4-0, 3-0) overcame Hornack’s stunning 3-0 loss to Horwat in the second match of the night by registering four pins of its own, including an impressive effort at 189 pounds by undersized Patrick Nee, the Bucs’ usual 152-pounder.

“I thought Patrick Nee … ,” Shields said. “That kid literally drank eight pounds of water before weigh-in so we could wrestle him at 189. We were hoping he would just go out there and survive and compete. We know he’s tough. For him to win like that, it totally flipped the script of the match. Love the attitude. That’s a Burrell wrestler out there. Next man up.

“He weighed 162 pounds tonight. He was all full of water.”

Burrell also received pins from Luca Rosa (121), Julian Bertucci (127) and Ayden Kun (285), who needed extra time in a classic battle with Derry’s Levi Haase before winning it with just 23 seconds left in the second overtime period.

The Bucs’ other winners were Calio Zanella (139), Nico Zanella (160) and Isaac Lacinski (172). Top-ranked Cam Baker (107) won by forfeit.

Derry’s other victories were from top-ranked Anthony Mucci (114), Giovanni Beatrice (133), Max Doperak (152) and Brady Brown (215).

Doperak trailed for the entire match and was down 11-5 when he rallied to stop Ben Catullo with 14 seconds left in the third period to give Derry (7-3, 3-1) a 9-3 lead.

But Burrell was too strong, reeling off three consecutive victories to go ahead 16-9 before pulling away.

“Burrell is a tough team, great history,” Derry coach Troy Dolan said. “We’re still a little bit new, working on some things. I thought we battled really hard, and our conditioning looked really good, so I was proud of the guys. We’re going to get back and get after it. I don’t want to be taking 40-18 losses. It’s not something I’m trying to repeat. But also, compared to where we were at last year, I thought we did a really good job.”

Hornack, who was coming off a 6-0 decision to Maddox Shaw of Thomas Jefferson in the 139-pound quarterfinals of the Powerade Wresting Tournament last week, struggled to overcome the unheralded Horwat at 145.

“Like we stress all year, it’s a team sport,” Shields said. “Each individual can only do so much. What you don’t expect to happen happens. And that was certainly one of them, but the (rest of the) guys stayed focused and knew their job was no different than what it was prior to those first two results.

“All credit to Derry. Those kids are tough. That’s a well-coached team. They’re a good team, a young team and they’re going to keep getting better.”

Dolan didn’t appear surprised by Horwat’s surprise outcome.

“Mason is a great kid,” he said. “He’s worked hard all offseason with us. He puts a lot of extra work in, so we kind of anticipated this to be a good match for him and we expected to win. He has the big ‘counties’ coming up and will see a couple of guys ranked in the state. So, hopefully, we put a really good week together here and show everybody what he’s made of.”

Both teams are headed to the annual Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament on Friday and Saturday at Greensburg Salem.

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