Burrell wrestling moves step closer to getting back to top of WPIAL Class 2A

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024 | 10:03 PM


The Burrell wrestling team topped Hampton and Bentworth in the first two rounds of the WPIAL Class 2A team tournament Wednesday at Burrell High School.

The victories continued the Bucs’ streak of consecutive seasons in the WPIAL semifinals that stretches back more than two decades.

But, as is the standard for Burrell wrestling, making the semifinals is nice but not the ultimate goal.

The Bucs hope to also continue a consecutive run of making the WPIAL finals as they attempt to return to the top of the WPIAL mountain after two straight runner-up finishes.

“To win a WPIAL championship, it starts by winning the first two rounds,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “Now, we are focused on getting that semifinal match on Saturday. We’re excited to be there again with a chance to win a title.

“This month is the best of the season. This is what we train for all year. I think we are ready. We just have to go out there on Saturday at execute.”

Burrell, which improved to 12-2 with its wins, will face Quaker Valley in the semifinal round Saturday at 10 a.m. at Peters Township’s AHN Arena. Burgettstown and Mt. Pleasant will wrestle in the other semifinal.

The winners will meet in the finals at 11:30 a.m., and the semifinal losers will face each other at the same time to determine the third and fourth seeds to the PIAA playoffs.

All four WPIAL semifinalists in Class 2A clinched PIAA berths with their two wins Wednesday.

The match between the Bucs and Bearcats still was undecided until the penultimate weight.

With Burrell leading 35-25 heading into 133, Bucs sophomore Jake Stewart found himself in a closely contested bout with Bentworth senior Ben Luketich.

Stewart led 6-5 early in the second period before he put Luketich on his back for the pin at the 2-minute, 16-second mark.

That clinched the match for Burrell.

“I wrestled (Luketich) at Powerade, so I knew what to expect and what he liked to do,” said Stewart, who bounced back from a tough decision loss against Hampton to up his overall season record to 16-10. “I knew what I wanted to get to in the first period. I like throws, and I was able to get to that. I was able to get out of the first and then get the pin.

“I love going to WPIALs and going to states, all of it. We just have to keep taking care of business. We’re confident against whoever we face.”

The Bearcats opted not to send anyone out against senior Cooper Hornack at 139.

Burrell took the lead for good when Nico Zanella pinned Paxton Thomas at 1:16 of their 160-pound bout.

Isaac Lacinski won by forfeit at 172, and the Bucs were ahead 17-6.

Also winning by fall against Bentworth were Luke Boylan at 215, Cam Baker at 107 and Carter Thomas at 114. The consecutive wins put Burrell up 35-18.

Bentworth’s big four of freshman Drake McClure (121), senior Chris Vargo (127), sophomore Owen Ivcic (145) and senior Vitali Daniels (189) — all in the top three in this week’s Triblive HSSN Class 2A rankings — provided 19 of their team’s 25 points with a decision, a major decision, and two pins, respectively.

Junior Alex Rusilko also scored a win by pin at heavyweight for Bentworth.

The Bearcats (6-3) punched their ticket to the quarterfinals with a 42-33 victory over Highlands (13-5) in the first round. The Golden Rams led 33-30 before Bentworth scored pins in the final two bouts.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Bentworth coach Mike Shrader said. “Burrell is the standard. We all know that. They haven’t won (the WPIAL title) the past couple of years, but they’ve been in the finals. To be able to come out and battle with them and make it an exciting show for the fans, our kids will remember that.

“We have a lot of young kids, and I think we can take a lot of positives from how hard they worked.”

Quarterfinals

Burrell 47, Bentworth 25

145: Owen Ivcic (BW) p. Calio Zanella, 1:48

152: Ben Catullo (BU) tech. fall Ty Watson, 23-8, 4:25.

160: Nico Zanella (BU) p. Paxton Thomas, 1:16

172: Isaac Lacinski (BU) wbf

189: Vitali Daniels (BW) p. Logan Shank, :27

215: Luke Boylan (BU) p. Zeek Malanosky, :33

285: Alex Rusilko (BW) p. Ayden Kun, :45

107: Cam Baker (BU) p. Brian Mathews, :21

114: Carter Thomas (BU) p. Nick Krutules (BW), :50

121: Drake McClure (BW) dec. Luca Rosa (B), 3-0

127: Chris Vargo (BW) maj. dec. Julian Bertucci, 14-2

133: Jake Stewart (BU) p. Ben Luketich, 2:16

139: Cooper Hornack (BU) wbf

First round

Burrell 60, Hampton 6

139: Cooper Hornack (B) p. Logan Poslusny, :29

145: Calio Zanella (B) p. Devin Rakar, :45

152: Ben Catullo (B) p. Brandon Johnston, 1:33

160: Nico Zanella (B) dec. Alan Danner, 4-1

172: Isaac Lacinski (B) p. Logan Glock, :49

189: Caleb Rihn (H) dec. Logan Shank, 7-3

215: Luke Boylan (B) p. Jonovan McKelvey, :34

285: Ayden Kun (B) dec. Nate Glock, 4-0

107: Cam Baker (B) p. Aiden Shim, 1:27

114: Carter Thomas (B) p. Isabella McNutt, 3:40

121: Luca Rosa (B) wbf.

127: Julian Bertucci (B) p. Zechariah Campbell, 1:54

133: Dustin Kerr (H) dec. Jake Stewart (B), 3-0

Bentworth 42, Highlands 33

139: Aiden Burford (H) p. Bryce Crowson, 2:25

145: Owen Ivcic (B) p. Jackson Babinsack, 0:53

152: Kyren Veasley (H) p. Ty Watson, 3:43

160: Taiyvon Partlow (H) p. Paxton Thomas, 3:30

172: Brayden Taggart (B) p. Jayden Calhoun, 1:56

189: Vitali Daniels (B) p. Darius Cherry, 0:40

215: James Naviglia (H) p. Zeek Malanosky, 1:51

285: Alex Rusilko (B) p. Cruz Kelly, 1:05

107: Javeon Chambers (H) p. Brian Mathews, 2:54

114: DeJamire Suber (H) d. Nick Krutules, 7-4

121: Drake McClure (B) p. Nygel Jack, 1:25

127: Chris Vargo (B) p. Liam Roberts, 0:29

133: Ben Luketich (B) p. Salvatore Barbarino, 3:06

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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