Challengers line up to try to dethrone Burrell in WPIAL Class 2A wrestling

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021 | 4:24 PM


Burrell has won 15 consecutive WPIAL Class 2A titles, but could this be the year its reign ends?

Some coaches have said, “until someone beats them, I won’t believe it.”

But the Bucs, who went 14-2 last season, return only five starters from a team that placed third in the state. Among that group is sophomore Cooper Hornack, a PIAA 106-pound runner-up.

Others back include junior Niko Ferra, Shawn Szymanski, Cole Clark and Damian Barr. Returning starters Nick Salerno, Dylan Slahtovsky and Philip Walsh decided not to wrestle this season.

“We graduated more than usual,” Burrell coach Josh Shields. “We graduated eight, and we only have five freshmen. We’ll have a larger group come up next year.

“We have a couple freshmen (Isaac Lacinski and Luke Boylan) that I expect will contribute. We’ll have a full lineup. We just won’t be as deep.”

The biggest losses were PIAA champion A.J. Corrado and state runner-up Ian Oswalt.

“We’ll be competitive,” Shields said. “We must improve to reach our goals.

“I like our team. The kids are working hard, and we just have to make steady improvement. I’d rather coach a 14-man roster who wants to be here and work.”

There are a handful of teams ready to dethrone the champions this season.

Teams to watch:

2. Burgettstown: The Blue Devils (13-1 last season) lost to Burrell in the WPIAL semifinals in 2021. They return 10 starters. Their biggest loss was Shane Kemper. They are led by PIAA qualifiers Parker Sentipal (106), Gaven Suica (120) and Joey Sentipal (126). D.J. Slovick (152) is primed for a big season.

3. Mt. Pleasant: This could be the best Mt. Pleasant team in years. The Vikings return 12 starters, led by two-time PIAA champion and Pitt recruit Dayton Pitzer (215). Third-year coach Zach Snyder also expects big years from Joe Longhi (106), Jamison Poklembo (132), Greg Shaulis (126), Luke Shaulis (138), Luke Geibig (138) and Noah Gnibus (172).

4. Quaker Valley: The Quakers (13-6) return 11 starters, led by PIAA qualifiers Jack Kazalas (106) and Patrick Cutchember (189), a Clarion recruit. The Quakers lost to Burrell in the semifinals last winter. Justin Richey (152) is another wrestler to keep an eye on.

5. Laurel: The Spartans (13-4) are led by junior Pitt commit Grant MacKay. They also return 10 starters. Colin Bartley (113) is among the team’s talented underclassmen.

Others to watch: Beth-Center, Elizabeth Forward, Montour, Southmoreland, McGuffey, Frazier and West Greene.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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