Hampton freshman makes name for himself in WPIAL wrestling postseason
Sunday, March 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM
Hampton freshman Dustin Kerr proved a wrist fracture and a sore elbow couldn’t prevent him from climbing a podium.
The 15-year-old 127-pounder, who missed a total of six weeks this season with lingering injuries, placed second at sectionals in mid-February and fifth at the WPIAL Class 2A wrestling championships Feb. 24-25 at Chartiers Valley to qualify for the PIAA Class 2A Southwest Regionals.
He was the only Talbots wrestler to advance past WPIALs this season and the first Hampton freshman to reach regionals since 2018.
“This experience is invaluable,” Hampton coach Nick Endres said. “Having this success this early, I hope it continues to build for him and he continues to stay hungry. I think he has a lot of potential. Even with his great performance (at WPIALs) and at sections, I think his best wrestling is still yet to come.”
Kerr’s season began with disappointment. He left the season-opening Eastern Area Invitational on Dec. 3 with a fracture in his right wrist and missed the next month.
“It was pretty unfortunate,” Kerr said.
He returned in early January but aggravated his wrist injury and elbow tendinitis at the Allegheny County Wrestling championships in mid-January and was shut down for two more weeks.
“I kept trying to stay on the mat, and it got to a point where I realized I had to take some time off, which was really upsetting to me,” he said. “I took some time off and I did rehab and everything, and then I came on the mat feeling real good. I just needed to battle through the pain and suck it up. It was all mental. I just had to push through it.”
Kerr brought an 18-9 record into the regionals March 3-4 at Altoona, which took place after the deadline for this edition. The top six in each weight class at regionals qualify for the PIAA championships in Hershey the following week.
“I definitely felt a little nervous coming in (to WPIALs),” Kerr said. “It was a big stage. But I’ve been used to it, being in this sport for so long. I felt I could pull some wins out of there.”
Kerr entered the sectionals as the No. 7 seed, but he pinned Laurel freshman Braxton Carr, the No. 2 seed, at 1:27 in the quarterfinals on the way to a runner-up finish.
“I felt great coming into sections,” Kerr said. “I felt fresh. I felt like I could make some noise.”
At the WPIAL championships, Kerr pinned Blackhawk senior Dominic Pugh in 33 seconds in the first round and then earned a 9-6 decision over No. 3 seeded junior Dylan Slovick of Burgettstown in the quarterfinals on the way to the fifth-place medal. Kerr broke a scoreless tie to open the second period with a pair of turns to take a 5-0 lead over Slovick.
“He’s a gritty, tough-nosed wrestler,” Endres said of Kerr. “He’s pretty savvy. He’s pretty mean on top.”
Kerr was among seven Talbots who reached the WPIAL championships by placing in the top six at the Class 2A Eastern Sectionals on Feb. 18 at Greensburg Salem in the program’s first season as a Class 2A school.
Only Burrell (12), Highlands (8) and Indiana (8) qualified more wrestlers for the WPIAL championships among the 14 schools at the sectional tournament.
“Our team wrestled very well at sections,” Endres said.
Other WPIAL qualifiers were juniors Alan Danner (22-15 at 152), Caleb Rihn (17-9 at 172), Nate Glock (19-19 at 285), Aiden Petry (16-13 at 189) and Isabella McNutt (9-10 at 107) and freshman Jonovan McKelvey (11-17 at 215).
Danner and Rihn placed third at sections and advanced to the second day of the WPIAL championships but fell one win shy of reaching regionals. McNutt became the first female wrestler in program history to make the WPIAL tournament.
Hampton should be more formidable next season. The Talbots are expected to return their entire lineup from this year’s senior-less team, which went 3-3 in Section 5-2A (3-9 overall).
“I expect us to hopefully come back with a healthier season and compete for a top spot in the section,” Endres said. “I thought we were there as a (top) team whenever we had everyone healthy on the mat together.”
Kerr, who began wrestling at age 7, owns an impressive pedigree. He was a state medalist in seventh and eighth grade, and last May he won the 128-pound intermediate title at the Middle Atlantic Wrestling Association Eastern National Championships in Salisbury, Md.
He wrestled at 133 this past regular season before dropping to 127 for the individual postseason. The reduced weight paid dividends.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot quicker on my feet,” he said. “My first couple of matches of the year, I felt really slow. I wasn’t setting the pace. I was just waiting for them to do something. Now I feel like I’m in control of the match, and I set the pace.”
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