Burrell wrestling locked in on pursuit of 14th straight WPIAL team title

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Friday, January 31, 2020 | 5:23 PM


Over the past 14 years, teams have come and teams have gone from the WPIAL Class AA team wrestling final four.

The one constant has been Burrell.

And that consistency has extended to capturing the top trophy every year.

The Bucs find themselves again in position to win it all. They will wrestle Saturday at Chartiers-Houston with the goal of adding their 14th consecutive WPIAL championship.

Standing in their way will be Quaker Valley, Burgettstown and McGuffey.

“Every year, there is talk that this might be the year that someone knocks off Burrell. I love that type of bulletin-board material,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “These kids definitely thrive off that stuff. With that, we know we’re going to get every team’s best match, and we know they are going to bring their best.”

Burrell, the top seed in the tournament, advanced to Saturday’s semifinals with a 58-15 victory over Beth-Center on Wednesday at Burrell in its final home match of the season.

The Bucs will take on No. 4 Quaker Valley, and No. 2 Burgettstown will face No. 3 McGuffey. Both matches are at noon.

The winners will meet for the title at 2.

“Our main goal is to win the title and be in a good place for states, but we know we have to take it one match at a time,” Bucs junior 132-pounder Ian Oswalt said.

“We have to stay focused. Right now, that is Quaker Valley. We have to go into that match, wrestle our best and move onto the next match, no matter the outcome.”

The top three teams from Saturday’s matches advance to next week’s PIAA tournament. A third-place consolation bout will be at 2 with the winner moving on to states, so all four teams are guaranteed two matches.

“Quaker Valley has really tough kids all throughout their lineup,” Oswalt said. “They are coached well, so they definitely know what they are doing. If we wrestle to our ability, I am confident we can come out on top and get to the finals. Bonus points will be a key thing. We have to wrestle aggressively.”

Quaker Valley is led by a trio of wrestlers ranked by the Trib in the top five of their weight classes. Hunter Robinson (106) and Conner Redinger (152) are ranked No. 1, and Patrick Cutchember is No. 2 at 170.

“We like to have a target on our backs,” Bucs junior A.J. Corrado said. “It puts a little fire under us. We feel we work harder than every other team and will do whatever it takes to defend our title.”

Corrado is ranked No. 2 at 152, and he said he’s looking forward to a likely rematch with Redinger, who scored an overtime victory in a bout between the two in late December at Powerade.

“From where we started at the beginning of the season, we weren’t wrestling as well as we are right now,” said Corrado, who scored his 100th career win last weekend at the Bedford tournament.

“Hopefully, we can keep it going Saturday. We’ve been practicing hard up to this point and getting better every day.”

Corrado didn’t wrestle Wednesday against Beth-Center — he received a forfeit win at 152 — but he saw his teammates combine for seven pins and a major decision among 11 victories.

Senior 126-pounder Trent Valovchik picked up one of those wins Wednesday with a 7-0 decision. He said he’s happy to be on the mat with his Burrell teammates after shoulder issues nearly derailed his season.

“It’s always a great atmosphere (for the WPIAL team finals) with a bunch of people from all different schools,” Valovchik said. “We have a student bus going to try and get more kids to come down. Hopefully, we have a lot of people there to support us.”

Shields hopes his wrestlers can keep up the momentum of their recent surge. It’s a rebirth of sorts, he said, after having a tough time the weekend of Jan. 17 at the Brookville Ultimate Duals, where they fell to state powers Brookville, Chestnut Ridge and Reynolds.

“I think Brookville was a wakeup call for the wrestlers and the coaches,” Shields said. “We had some individuals doing well, but as a team, we weren’t our best. After that weekend, I started to demand more from the team, my assistant coaches and myself. We raised the level of expectation. We came out of there with some work to do, and everyone responded. We started to come together more as a team. I’ve really seen that change in them.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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