Finnerty brothers bolster Thomas Jefferson wrestling team’s success

By: Ray Fisher
Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 10:06 AM


Between them, the Finnerty brothers have almost 50 wins this season as members of the Thomas Jefferson wrestling team.

Brendan Finnerty, a 145-pound junior and team captain, owns a sparkling 31-8 record.

Seniors Max Shaw, Alex Weber, Andy Kalup and the 17-year-old Finnerty share the captaincy role for the Jaguars.

“Since it’s my first year being captain, one of my goals was to be a good leader,” Brendan said. “I have enjoyed our team effort, working toward our section title. And I expect us to make it to states.”

A three-year starter, Brendan jumped from an 11-13 record as a freshman to a 30-8 mark as a sophomore and has developed into to a team leader as a junior. His career record is 72-29.

“Brendan has gotten better every year,” TJ coach Michael Ladick said. “When our senior leaders leave, it will become his team.

“He’s not so much a vocal leader but one that will literally work out with anyone in the (wrestling) room. He is on average 150 pounds before cutting weight for matches, and there are times my father (assistant coach Bob Ladick) and I will yell at him to get away from our 220 (pound) wrestlers and heavyweights because he will run over and start working out with them.

“But the reason he can do this is because he is incredibly strong, has incredible endurance and is deceivingly quick while wrestling into and out of positions.”

Brian Finnerty, 15, has followed in his brother’s footsteps. A 138-pound freshman, Brian owns a 16-8 record.

“My goal in the beginning of the year was to be a part of the team and to try to win the section for the first time in awhile,” Brian said. “We couldn’t have won the section without our great coaching staff or without our great captains to lead and push us to win.”

Brian, like his older brother, placed fifth at the Allegheny County tournament, which was won by Thomas Jefferson. Brian’s coach compared him favorably to a Mack truck.

“Brian, pound for pound, might have the best hips on our team, and his legs are like concrete,” Ladick said. “Brian was very accomplished through youth and junior high, and there were early signs throughout preseason that he would be a great addition for our team.

“Once he got down to weight, it was clear what he was capable of doing. He was an integral part of helping us win a section title and advancing as far as we did in our playoff matches.”

Brendan, who focuses on staying calm and relaxed during matches, said he and his brother began wrestling at an early age.

“I got involved through one of my teammate’s dad (Temple Haynes) at a soccer game,” Brendan said. “The next winter, I was at wrestling practice at the age of 7 with my 5-year-old brother, Brian. Actually, I didn’t win a single match in my first year of wrestling, where my brother was very successful.

“This season, Brian has really stepped it up and played a big part in our success. It’s pretty cool that, as brothers, we wrestle back-to-back in our dual meets. I’m really excited to see what he brings to the future of this program. Luckily, he and I have one more year together and look to really make an impact for our team.”

A former Cup soccer player who believes his strength on the mats revolves around his focus and determination, Brian said his parents were influential to the start of his wrestling career.

“It is a very funny story,” Brian said. “My mom was a statistician for six years for the Kiski Area wrestling team under coach (Chuck) Tursky. She was talking to Temple Haynes about wrestling one day at soccer game, and he suggested that my brother and I give it a try. My dad and mom started taking us to a small wrestling club run by Temple called Mat Sharks.”

The Finnertys are among eight TJ grapplers who have advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA tournament March 1-2 at Canon-McMillan.

Prior to sectionals, Shaw (195) and Weber (152) led the way record-wise for the Jaguars.

Sophomores Kale Buckiso and Mikey Zacur, and senior Ridge Vlha, also topped the 20-win mark at 120, 126 and 132, respectively. They were followed in the wins column by senior heavyweight Dom Serapiglia and 113-pound sophomore Ben Eckenrod.

Eckenrod (9-2), Weber (35-2) and Shaw (29-0) captured section championships last weekend, and Zacur (25-10) was a section runner-up.

Buckiso (25-8), Vlha (25-13), Brendan Finnerty and Serapiglia (14-3) finished third in the section. Brian Finnerty and Kalup (12-15), at 170, placed fourth.

Serapiglia, a four-year lineman on the TJ football team, recently committed to Tulsa. He has been selected for the PSFCA Big 33 Football Classic on May 27 at Central Dauphin’s Landis Field in Harrisburg.

Shaw, one of the WPIAL’s top running backs last fall, will continue his wrestling career at North Carolina.

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