Burrell wrestling rolls to 13th straight WPIAL team title

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Saturday, February 2, 2019 | 8:00 PM


There wasn’t a huge celebration from the Burrell wrestling team after winning its 13th consecutive WPIAL Class AA on Saturday.

Don’t get them wrong, they were pleased to take home another gold trophy, their 15th in school history. But the Bucs have larger goals, and there was no need to celebrate.

“The last few seasons, I don’t think our goals were set as high as they are this year,” Burrell senior Austin Mele said after the Bucs defeated Freedom, 54-21, in the final at Chartiers-Houston. “The last couple of years we fell short of our goals. This year, we want medals from states.”

The PIAA tournament begins Monday with preliminary-round matches.

Burrell, which won its lone PIAA team title in 2008, will face the survivor of Monday’s match between the District 3 runner-up and District 4 third-place team on Thursday.

Mele, who wrestles at 160, opened Saturday with a pin of Beth-Center senior Jacob Housel in the Bucs’ 53-15 semifinal victory. He later capped off the day with another pin.

Daniel McCarthy (170) and Ricky Feroce (182) followed Mele with pins as the Bucs jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the semifinals. It was the 17th consecutive season that Burrell wrestled in the finals.

“I know we’ll look back 40 or 50 years from now and see what we accomplished and say ‘holy heck that was a helluva streak,’ ” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “So many things come into play. The match is one thing, but all the hard work in the offseason is another and dealing with injuries and teenage kids. It all has to come together.”

And it did once again for the Bucs in two impressive victories. Also collecting pins against Beth-Center were Ian Oswalt (126) and Bryan Gaul (132).

“Knowing this day was coming, it gets more and more nerve-racking,” Mele said. “You don’t want to be the team that ends the streak or doesn’t perform at your best. I was very nervous because I didn’t want to break the streak. I wanted to come out and dominate.”

And he did. His pin ignited a dominating performance once again by the Bucs.

Against Freedom, McCarthy (170) and Feroce (182) began the match with pins to give the Bucs a 12-0 lead.

After Freedom senior Bryson Miller got a pin at 195, Burrell senior Mason Slahtovsky, who was held out of the Beth-Center match while nursing an injury, got a quick pin at 220 to make it 18-6.

“Getting the momentum early is huge,” Shields said about the quick starts. “You come out and get fall, fall, fall and before the other teams can look up, they’re in a 21-point hole.

“The wrestlers worried about them doing their job, and that’s what it takes to be a successful team.”

Not only did Burrell get seven pins in the finals, it got key wins from Oswalt over Z.J. Ward, 4-2, in sudden victory at 126 and a 4-3 tie-breaker win from A.J. Corrado over Kenny Duschek at 138.

“My 170-pounder has pinned their kid before, but he wasn’t with it today,” Freedom coach Jim Covert said. “When that happened, kids start getting scared and that’s not a good way to wrestle. My five studs weren’t scared, it was the others.”

Gaul, who missed the past month with a hand injury, was cleared Friday and picked up two pins. The others to pick up pins in the finals were Nick Salerno (113), Trent Valovchik (120) and Mele.

“I couldn’t keep him (Gaul) out of the lineup,” Shields said. “He’s had a tough senior season with the injury and he’s ready to go.

“Everything is coming together at the right time. I’m looking forward to the state tournament.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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