Hampton senior wrestler buckles down after tough seasons, climbs WPIAL ranks

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Saturday, February 10, 2024 | 11:01 AM


In Alan Danner’s first two seasons at Hampton, he spent much more time on the wrong side of pins than on the right side of wins.

Two years since he nearly quit the sport because he was tired of losing, the 152-pound senior is eyeing a successful postseason and his first trip to the PIAA Class 2A Southwest Regionals.

“After my first couple of years, I was almost done,” he said. “Especially after my freshman year. I only had a couple of wins, and then my sophomore year … yeah, I was almost ready to be done after that.”

Instead, he devoted himself to getting better and has reaped the benefits of his hard work.

Danner, who last season fell one victory shy of reaching the PIAA Southwest Regionals, will bring a 22-9 record into the Eastern Sectionals on Feb. 16-17 at Greensburg Salem, the first stage in a cut-down process that leads to the PIAA championships in Hershey. Danner has recorded 14 pins this season, including quick falls in 25, 29, 48 and 64 seconds.

The top six in each weight class at sectionals advance to the WPIAL Class 2A championships on Feb. 23-24 at Chartiers Valley. From there, the top eight in each weight class qualify for the PIAA Southwest Regionals March 1-2 at Altoona.

Danner is among seven returning WPIAL Class 2A qualifiers for the Talbots, who finished third in Section 5-2A with a 4-2 mark (7-7 overall) and reached the WPIAL team playoffs for the first time since 2020.

Others looking to get back to WPIAL tournament are sophomore Dustin Kerr (27-8 at 133), the team’s only returning regional qualifier, along with seniors Caleb Rihn (10-3 at 160), Aiden Petry (16-10 at 189), Isabella McNutt (12-18 at 114) and Nate Glock (18-15 at 285) and sophomore Jonovan McKelvey (15-11 at 215).

They helped Hampton to a 38-21 victory over Avonworth in the WPIAL Class 2A preliminary round before falling to eventual champion Burrell, 60-6, in the first round.

“We were proud of the season and the way they competed throughout the year and grew as a team,” coach Nick Endres said. “My expectation is to get seven or more back into the WPIAL tournament. I will consider that a successful day.”

McNutt, who last season became first female wrestler in program history to reach WPIALs, and sophomore Saige Deliman (4-14 at 121) will compete in the WPIAL girls individual championships Feb. 17 at North Allegheny.

Danner is a long way from the wrestler who went a combined 14-37 in his first two seasons and was pinned 29 times. He was 7-18 as a freshman, but four of the wins were by forfeit or injury default. Only three times in 22 contested matches did he step on the mat and beat his opponent.

As a sophomore, he went 7-18 and was pinned 14 times.

“I didn’t have very much confidence going into my junior year,” he said. “I decided I would give it my all one last year, and I turned out to be better.”

Danner said the difference was “putting my head down and working harder in the weight room and going to summer practices.”

He went 22-15 last season and placed third in the section at 152 pounds to reach the WPIAL championships. This season, he took another step forward, winning the 160-pound title at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic at West Mifflin and placing fifth at the Chartiers-Houston Invitational.

He also is much stronger on the bottom, leading to him being pinned only twice in 30 matches this season.

“I really don’t get pinned anymore,” he said. “I feel really confident from the bottom position that I won’t get turned and I can at least get an escape or a reversal.”

Danner will be competing at 152 in the postseason after wrestling exclusively this season at 160 and 172.

“I believe no matter what the weight is for him,” Endres said, “he’s going to do well.”

Danner also wrestled at 152 last postseason, but he had competed at that weight for the final two months, so he was a “lighter” 152. This season he is dropping from 160.

“I think I will be a lot stronger and bigger than most of the other kids,” he said. “This season I’m definitely going to be heavier, and I’ve lost less muscle. Last year, I felt a lot less confident and a weaker 152. But I feel like I retained a lot of muscle this year.”

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