Captains McKenna, Heningcamp help spark growth for Gateway wrestling

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Sunday, January 23, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Floyd McKenna entered his junior season hoping to make his mark on the mat for the Gateway wrestling team.

The junior 172-pounder won 15 matches combined the past two seasons.

This year, McKenna owned 16 victories against just seven losses through a Section 1 dual match with Plum on Jan. 19.

“I am happy with my season so far, but there are things I still need to work on in the room to get to where I want to be,” said McKenna, who went 2-2 in four matches at the Allegheny County tournament Jan. 14 and 15.

“I have improved on my conditioning so I can get more out of my matches. That is the biggest thing. I put in more work because I could see what I could become as a wrestler.”

McKenna fronts the team as a co-captain with fellow junior Arontay Heningcamp. They are two of four wrestlers who returned with varsity matches under their belt from last year’s covid-truncated schedule.

The others are seniors Eric Brophy (145) and Gavin Reed (285).

There are close to a dozen wrestlers on the Gateway roster this year.

“We’re coming along well and working together to help make each other better,” McKenna said.

“We’re always there for each other and supporting each other.”

McKenna won his first match at the Allegheny County tournament at Fox Chapel, but was stopped by Quaker Valley’s Mason Diemert by pinfall in the quarterfinals.

He split two more matches, finishing up in the fourth round of consolations.

“I felt I could’ve done a little bit better fundamentally, but I gave it my all, and I felt I did pretty good,” McKenna said.

McKenna’s two pins at the county tournament gave him 11 on the season.

“On Friday, Floyd wrestled strong and had a chance to make the semifinals,” Sula said.

“He got pinned in the quarterfinals, but the match was a little closer before the final result. He got off to a little bit of a slow start Saturday morning, but he was able to recover.

Sula said McKenna has become more aggressive on his feet and has a high motor through his improved conditioning.

“One aspect of wrestling is putting moves together, and that has helped him take a step further this season. He is still progressing,” Sula said.

Heningcamp, 5-6 last year, was 14-8 overall through the match with Plum. He also went 2-2 at the county tournament with victories by fall and technical fall.

“Arontay has taken a big step this year,” Sula said.

“He worked hard a lot in the offseason, going to extra practices. You can really see the benefits of that in his work from last year to this year. He’s an example, like Floyd, who is willing to put the work in.”

Sula said as captains, McKenna and Heningcamp have worked hard to be the leaders in and out of the practice room the rest of the team can follow.

It was tough sledding for the Gators in their match with Plum. Sophomore Jacob Pawloski picked up Gateway’s lone win with a 4-2 decision over Plum senior Lucas Heath at 189. He improved to 9-6.

His brother Luke, a freshman at 126 pounds, also was 9-6 after the Plum match.

“Guys like Jacob and Luke and (senior) Aceyn (Ausbrook), our 215 pounder, you can really see them pick things up more and more and put things together on the mat,” Sula said.

“Overall, as a group, we’re progressing. As a coach, you expect growth at different stages or levels. You want to see it pay off in February. That’s what these guys want.”

Gateway was slated to wrestle a section match against Franklin Regional last Thursday.

The Gators are back in action Feb. 4 at Fox Chapel before hosting a quad meet with North Catholic, Yough and McKeesport on Feb. 5.

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

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