Connor, Kiski Area roll through WPIAL wrestling Day 1

Friday, March 1, 2019 | 10:58 PM

Cam Connor critiqued his minimal mat time Friday. Then again, that proved a pretty optimal outcome for the Kiski Area senior.

A pair of pins in less than three minutes total allowed Connor, a defending champion, to sail through to the 152-pound semifinals of the WPIAL Class AAA individual wrestling championships, which began Friday at Canon-McMillan with matches running through the quarterfinals.

Like a few of his decorated Kiski Area teammates, Connor couldn’t find much wrong with his performance in the first round and quarterfinals.

“The first day, I just wanted to go out and handle business,” Connor said. “I wasn’t on the mat for too long, but I wanted to go out there, work my offense, get my takedowns, put people to their backs and get those pins.”

Four Kiski Area wrestlers took care of business by winning twice Friday in the championship bracket: Connor, senior Darren Miller (126 pounds) and juniors Jack Blumer (160) and Nick Delp (170). Armstrong’s Logan Harmon, an Apollo-Ridge sophomore who competes for the River Hawks by virtue of a cooperative agreement between the schools, made the semifinals at 195 pounds.

By now the WPIAL tournament is a known quantity for Kiski Area’s semifinalists. Blumer and Connor won championships last season, Miller is a four-year qualifier who placed third in 2017 and Delp is a three-year qualifier who took third last season.

“(It’s about) getting a feel, getting back into the motion,” said Blumer, who like Connor and Miller was seeded first in his weight class. “We had section (tournaments) last week, which wasn’t that bad, but now, the first day, I like the first two matches. They’re kind of like warm-up, getting me ready. Tomorrow’s going to be the day where it all starts.”

The top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to next weekend’s PIAA tournament in Hershey, and semifinalists need to win just one match to automatically qualify. All four of Kiski Area’s semifinalists have made it to the state championships individually in the past.

“(I need to) stay focused, stay focused one match at a time, wrestle hard, don’t quit, go from the first whistle to the last whistle and empty the tank,” Delp said. “That’s pretty much it.”

Miller, seeking his first WPIAL championship, accomplished another significant milestone Friday. The senior pinned Seneca Valley’s Ronan O’Shea in the first round and beat Hampton’s Zach Wright by 7-0 decision in the quarterfinals, the latter victory giving him 159 for his career and tying him with Noah Levett for the most in school history.

“It’s huge,” said Miller, who will wrestle Connellsville’s Jared Keslar in the semifinals Saturday morning. “Having that many wins is a massive accomplishment, and I know my teammate (Connor) will be getting here soon during this tournament. It feels great, though.”

Indeed, Connor stands at 157 career victories after pinning Fox Chapel’s Josh Miller in the first round and Ambridge’s Jacob Dunlap in the quarterfinals. He’ll face Waynesburg’s Luca Augustine in the semifinals.

“I’ve still got to be prepared for tomorrow, come in, get a good warm-up and come out and perform in the semis,” Connor said. “Experience is a huge part. I’ve been in the semis all four of my years now … I want to go out there, handle my business, defend my (No.) 1 seed. It’s just one match at a time.”

Blumer said he felt “dead” in his quarterfinal match against Penn-Trafford’s Tony Zona, but he overcame an early Zona reversal to get a pin. The Cavaliers’ 160-pounder, who will wrestle Waynesburg’s Colby Morris in the semifinals, pinned Fox Chapel’s Alex Wecht in the first round.

Delp pinned Thomas Jefferson’s Andy Kalup in the first round and had a strong performance on top against Penn-Trafford’s John Bachar in the quarterfinals, scoring a 4-1 decision. He’ll wrestle North Allegheny’s Jon Hoover in the semifinals.

While the Kiski Area semifinalists are old hands at WPIALs, Harmon, who didn’t wrestle varsity last season, made the most of his first-ever day at the tournament. After a first-period pin of West Allegheny’s Will Reynolds in the first round, Harmon had a strong offensive performance in the quarterfinals, getting four takedowns in a 9-2 decision over Montour’s Dante Presutti.

“The second kid I wrestled, he was the fourth seed, and I beat him. We’ll keep moving forward,” Harmon said. “We work takedowns all the time, (Armstrong coach Brandon) Newill and I. He helps me. We’ve been doing this new takedown called the knee pull. It helps me get behind them and take them down and get two points.”

Harmon will wrestle Thomas Jefferson’s Max Shaw, the top seed, in the semifinals.

In addition to its four semifinalists, Kiski Area has six wrestlers alive in the consolation bracket with a chance to advance to Hershey: Antonio Giordano (106 pounds), Dom Giordano (120), Sammy Starr (132), Enzo Morlacci (145), Brayden Roscosky (195) and Stone Joseph (285).

Three wrestlers from Fox Chapel remain in the consolation bracket: Avery Bursick (145), Wecht and Ed Farrell (220). Plum 106-pounder Vince Citrano and Knoch heavyweight Eli Reese also are alive.

The tournament resumes at 10 a.m. Saturday with second-round consolation matches. The semifinals scheduled for 11:30 a.m., and the consolation and championship finals take place at 5 p.m.

“The big thing is, rest up tonight,” Harmon said. “Don’t be out doing stupid stuff with teammates. Be smart, get up in the morning and have a healthy breakfast and come ready to wrestle.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, or via Twitter .

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