Kiski Area, Burrell set to defend WPIAL, section team titles

Tuesday, January 21, 2020 | 7:16 PM

As the WPIAL team tournaments begin next week, Kiski Area and Burrell are getting set to defend their WPIAL crowns, but first, they must defend their section superiority.

On Wednesday, Kiski Area will travel to Hempfield for the Section 1-AAA tournament while Burrell will travel to Elizabeth Forward for the Section 3-AA tournament.

The Cavaliers have won four straight section titles and three straight WPIAL Class AAA titles, but when it comes to the 2019-20 postseason, those titles don’t mean anything.

“As a coaching staff, that success has come and gone and this is a different group of kids,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “Our style of coaching has always been taking the match in front of us and dealing with the one in front of us.”

“On Wednesday, we have two matches, and you have to start to focus on two, but if a majority of your focus isn’t on the first one, you may not get through it, especially with our section.”

Having that experience on the biggest stages has helped the Cavaliers in the past, though, and it will help once again this year when they start the defense of their title. To have success, it doesn’t come down to one person or one weight class, Heater said. It comes down to a complete team effort.

“We are gonna have to shave bonus (points) and get bonus (points) where we can,” Heater said. “We have to accomplish wins in the places we expect them.”

The Cavaliers will take on Latrobe in their first postseason section match, while the Bucs will take on Southmoreland.

The Bucs are fresh off a trip Brookville this past Friday for the Ultimate Duals, where they tested themselves against some of the best teams in the state — Reynolds, Chestnut Ridge and Brookville.

Burrell came away from the dual meet with three losses, but coach Josh Shields believes facing that type of competition will allow his team to reach that next level of performance in the coming weeks.

“I’m hoping those tough losses will push these guys,” Shields said. “Sometimes when you are always winning, you don’t learn. When you don’t push yourself to the next level, you can’t get everything right. So we went in there and some of our best kids took some tough losses, we took some pins, and I’ve seen a huge change in practice this week. So I’m looking forward to seeing how they compete.”

Over the past decade and a half, the Bucs have been the epitome of success. Thirteen straight WPIAL championships and 16 straight section titles don’t come easily. It comes from hard work, perseverance and, as the top team, the ability to produce success even while dealing with the pressure of being favored.

That means not looking past any team that steps in front of them, and that has been stressed to the Bucs throughout this season.

“We don’t overlook anyone,” Shields said. “We know we have a big target on our back because of the success we’ve had in the past. Every team is going to give us a little extra because of the possibility of knocking us off. So we keep the kids humbled and we keep them grounded and that definitely makes them hungry.”

Matches at Elizabeth Forward and Hempfield will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday with third-place and championship matches beginning at 7:15 p.m.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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