Freshman Jack Kazalas carving his own path within Quaker Valley wrestling program
Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 10:01 AM
From 2016-19, John Rocco Kazalas put his stamp on the Quaker Valley wrestling program.
He earned two section championships, three third-place finishes at the regional tournament, and found a place on the PIAA podium twice. He also won the first WPIAL title in program history as a senior.
Now, his younger brother, Jack, is looking to have just as big of an impact for the Quakers. In his first year on the varsity mat, he’s been trying to carve out his own path.
Kazalas went 27-5 at 106 pounds during his freshman season, picking up seven decisions, seven pins, four major decisions, and two technical falls. He also won seven matches via forfeit.
“I definitely feel like this season went pretty well for me,” Kazalas said. “I had pretty high expectations for myself, and I wish I would’ve won WPIALs; that was my ultimate goal.”
Kazalas cruised through the regular season, suffering losses to Seneca Valley’s Connor Smith, Tanner Spaulding from La Salle, Ohio, and Brandon Wentzel from Montoursville.
After losing to Smith at the Seneca Valley Duals in mid-January, Kazalas got his revenge at the annual Powerade Tournament with a 2-1 decision in the consolation bracket, which he said helped him for the postseason.
“He had beat me a couple of weeks earlier, then I beat him at Powerade so that was good for me,” Kazalas said.
After losing to Wentzel, Kazalas rolled off eight straight wins before meeting Burrell’s Cooper Hornack, another freshman, in the WPIAL Class AA individual finals. Hornack scored a takedown in the first period and an escape in the third to earn a 3-0 decision over Kazalas.
As a top-three finisher at WPIALs, Kazalas moved on to the Southwest Regional tournament at IUP on Feb 26. He lost to top-seeded Landon Bainey from West Branch in the semifinals but worked his way through the consolation bracket to place third and move on to the Super Regional, an extra round that was implemented this season to limit the number of contestants at the PIAA tournament.
Kazalas said his success has given him confidence for the rest of the season and his high school career.
“It’s just taught me that I can compete with anyone really,” Kazalas said. “I mean the matches were close with Hornack so it gave me a sense of confidence as well.”
Kazalas knows there is still room for improvement. His neutral approach has been his strong suit, and he said he still needs to improve with his top and bottom approach.
“I think I would just want to work on those because I’m not the best turner and I’ve been working on bottom a lot and getting out,” Kazalas said. “But I still think I need some more work.”
While Kazalas has a pretty talented brother to lean on, he also has a room full of skilled wrestlers he can go to for advice. Both Conner Redinger and Patrick Cutchember have captured WPIAL titles in their career, and have made several finals appearances. Kazalas said their big piece of advice was to just keep being himself.
“They’ve just kept saying, just keep doing what you do and you’ll be fine,” Kazalas said.
With WPIALs and the regional tournament in the background, Kazalas is looking to punch his ticket to the state tournament.
After his third-place finish at the regional tournament, Kazalas was given the fifth seed at the Super Regional tournament, which was to be held after deadline for this edition.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
Tags: Quaker Valley
More High School Sports• Girls volleyball rankings: Section races heat up for stretch run to WPIAL playoffs
• Kiski Area Sports Hall of Fame inducts Class of 2023
• A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: Deer Lakes’ Brooke Kostyak
• Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Mt. Pleasant’s Maggie Piper
• What to watch for in WPIAL sports for Oct. 2, 2023: WPIAL boys golf champions to be crowned