Carlynton freshman Brandebura hopes WPIAL wrestling title is just the beginning

Friday, February 21, 2020 | 2:25 PM

When Chase Brandebura returned from the WPIAL Class AA wrestling championships, he set down his gold medal and collapsed into bed. At some point, he said, he will find a special place in his room to display it.

Over the next three years, he hopes to turn that one medal into a collection.

Brandebura, a freshman at Carlynton, captured the WPIAL championship at 106 pounds Feb. 15. After receiving a first-round bye, he recorded quick pins — less than 1 minute, 40 seconds each — in the quarterfinals and semifinals before earning a 7-3 decision over Laurel’s Colin Bartley in the final.

The performance boosted his record to 31-4, and he led a contingent of six Cougars into the regionals. Senior Eddie Huehn was Class AA runner-up at 138, junior Oleg Melnyk placed third at 160, sophomore Bryce Rodriguez (113) and junior Collin Milko (182) were fourth in their weight classes and senior Sonny Peterson was seventh at 285.

Coach Jesse Valentine said, to his knowledge, it is the most wrestlers Carlynton has advanced to regionals since 1996. But the biggest prize belonged to Brandebura after a performance that surprised even Valentine.

The coach said he knew Brandebura could be good. He just didn’t know it would happen this quickly.

“I have coached him since he was 6 or 7 years old, and I never thought I would put a WPIAL wrestling medal around his neck as a freshman,” Valentine said.

Brandebura, too, wasn’t sure what to expect from his first experience as a varsity wrestler. After competing in a few early season tournaments, he started to believe the season could turn out to be special.

“My expectation was just take it one step at a time,” he said. “I got into a couple of tournaments and realized I was beating these top guys and holding my own.”

What has helped Brandebura to “hold his own” this season, Valentine said, are his strength and a motor that is perpetually in overdrive.

“He is a freak once he gets ahold of you,” Valentine said. “He’s looking to pin you. He looks for blood in the water, and if he senses it, it’s over.”

As eager as he is to get an opponent on his back, Brandebura is learning when to play it safe. His title match against Bartley was a perfect example.

He built a 6-0 lead, then focused on not doing anything too risky for the remainder of the match.

“I knew going in Colin was a great opponent. I just wanted to get the first takedown,” Brandebura said. “I turned him to make it 6-0 … and from there, I just knew to wrestle smart.”

Brandebura credited Huehn and Rodriguez for fast-tracking his development.

Huehn, as the battle-tested veteran, provides advice for the freshman. Rodriguez, meanwhile, is Brandebura’s frequent sparring partner.

“He is very solid,” Brandebura said. “It’s hard to take him down, especially because he is heavier. When I get on the mat against (guys my weight), they feel a lot lighter.”

Brandebura said it took him a couple days to “grasp the awesomeness” of what he had accomplished. When he saw his name on the marquee outside the high school, it hit home a little more.

Of course, he has that medal to remind him. But he is just getting started, and Valentine offers frequent reminders there is more to achieve.

“We try to keep our kids humble,” Valentine said. “It’s easy once you get some success to let it go too far. I told him, ‘Congratulations, but that’s not our goal.’ ”


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