5 WPIAL teams searching for PIAA gold

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 | 8:24 PM

Winning a PIAA championship takes a special team.

Waynesburg had that type of team in 2021.

But when the first round of team matches begins Thursday, five WPIAL teams will be attempting to win the state goal.

It won’t be easy, because some of the top teams in the state reside in the east.

Bethlehem Catholic and Nazareth, District 11 powers in Class 3A, and Faith Christian Academy (District 1) and Notre Dame-Green Pond (District 11) are the favorites this season.

That doesn’t mean WPIAL Class 3A champion Canon-McMillan, runner-up Waynesburg and third-place finisher Hempfield, and Class 2A champion Burgettstown and runner-up Burrell, won’t give it their best shot to bring home a medal.

“I never expected to be in the team states,” Hempfield senior Lucas Kapusta said. “This is awesome. This is a special group of guys. We’re brothers.”

Hempfield officially qualified for its second trip to Hershey by defeating Taylor Allderdice, 72-6, in a preliminary-round match on Monday.

The Spartans will face District 1 champion Pennridge at 6 p.m. Waynesburg, making its third consecutive trip to the state tournament, will face District 4 champion Shikellamy at the same time.

Waynesburg coach Kyle Szewczyk said he’s looking forward to the state tournament.

“We’re focused on the first match,” Szewczyk said. “Whoever can get on a roll and stay healthy. Hopefully, Joe’s (Simon) knee is OK.”

Simon has been injured most of the season. He finished his match in the finals against Canon-McMillan basically on one leg to save his team from giving up bonus points.

“He told me he’d finish and go his best for the team,” Szewczyk said. “He did a great job.”

Canon-McMillan takes the mat at 8 against Chambersburg, which defeated Quakertown, 36-31, in a preliminary-round match.

Big Macs coach Brian Krenzelak said he hopes his team continues its banner season, which was dedicated to the late Canon-McMillan icon Manuel “Buns” Pihakis, a legend at the school and former four-time WPIAL and three-time PIAA champion. He was the school’s former athletic director and mayor of Canonsburg. He died Nov. 5., 2022

“I’m super proud of this team and coaches,” Krenzelak said. “We had 5:30 a.m. practices, and they did everything right. We were proud of them. We wrestled all these teams in the final four during the season, and we were ready.

“It was a total team effort. We’re excited to get to Hershey. We know how things work, and the WPIAL championship is something Canon-McMillan is known for.”

As for Hempfield, veteran coach Vince DeAugustine said he couldn’t be happier with what the team has accomplished this season.

“Nobody gave us a chance at the beginning of the season,” DeAugustine said. “But I’m proud how these guys bought into what we were teaching and came together. Everyone contributed in our wins against Trinity, Butler, Connellsville and Allderdice.

“Making the state tournament is big for this team and program. Anytime you get a chance to compete at a high level is good.”

The Spartans have eight seniors on the team — Ethan Lebin, Ben Aujay, Kapusta, Charlie Mesich, Ryan Steffey, Logan Wolfe, Elijah Binakonsky and Ethan Shaw — and all of them competed against Taylor-Allderdice.

Burgettstown will begin its quest at 2 p.m. against District 2 champion Honesdale.

Burrell takes the mat at 4 against District 9 champion Brookville. These teams met Jan. 21 at the Ultimate Duals. Brookville won a close match, 31-25. Brookville won 7 of the 13 matches and recorded three pins. The Bucs need to reverse one of those matches and stay away from pins.

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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