Kiski Area set to host girls regional wrestling tournament Sunday

Friday, March 3, 2023 | 5:43 PM

Some of the top girls high school wrestlers in Pennsylvania will converge on Kiski Area High School for Sunday’s West Region Championships.

“We’re expecting 300 to 350 girls to be here,” said Kiski Area wrestling coach Chris Heater, adding that matches will be held on four mats.

Besides WPIAL wrestlers, the west regional will feature girls from schools in PIAA districts 7, 8 and 10. Competition will begin at 9 a.m. in 13 weight classes (100, 106, 112, 118, 124, 130, 136, 142, 148, 155, 170, 190 and 235 pounds). Medals will be awarded to the top three teams and the top eight wrestlers in each weight class. The top five place-winners in each class will advance to the state championships March 12 at Central Dauphin High School.

“This is the first year that girls will have to qualify at a regional to move on to the state tournament,” Heater said. “Before, a girl could just show up and compete at states.”

Six Plum wrestlers are scheduled to compete at Kiski Area: freshman Saphia Davis, 118 pounds; juniors Emma Scatena and Madison Pickett, both at 124; freshman Maddie Killmeyer, 130; sophomore Emma Leiendecker, 142; and freshman Alaina Claassen, 235. This will be the first high school regional meet for all of the Mustangs, said coach Dave Miller.

Representing Kiski in the regional tourney will be senior Bella DeVito, who will be wrestling at 124 pounds on her home mat.

“It’s really going to be cool because it’s my senior year and my last high school match in our gym,” she said.

DeVito placed third in last year’s state girls tournament and fourth in 2021.

“I’m hoping to win both the regional and the states,” she said. “I’ve wrestled a lot of the girls in the tournament before and know most of them. There are a couple of younger girls who I feel will be good competition.”

Heater said DeVito has committed to wrestle at Lock Haven, which has one of the top women’s teams in the country. She owns a 19-2 record in girls open tournaments this season and is 58-7 with 46 pins over the past three years. She also started on the Kiski boys varsity at 127 pounds this season.

“Whenever I’m wrestling against girls, I feel more confident and more at my level,” she said. “It definitely feels like I’m better against girls because I can shoot more and finish my shots better and do more moves.”

Heater called girls wrestling the “fastest growing sport in the country.” In Pennsylvania, participation in girls wrestling at the high school level has increased by more than 200% in recent years, according to SanctionPA, a non-profit group championing efforts to have the sport sanctioned in the state.

When Kiski received approval for a girls wrestling team in late 2021, it was the 31st school in the state to sponsor the sport.

“About a year later, we have 102 schools with teams,” Heater said.

The PIAA requires that at least 100 member schools form official girls teams before it will consider sanctioning the sport.

“The PIAA should vote on it in the spring, and we’re under the assumption that girls wrestling will be approved for next season,” Heater said.

Schools need only one competitor to start a team, Heater said. For the Cavaliers, DeVito was the sole member of the varsity girls team this season, with five girls wrestling at the junior high level. Freshmen who wrestled on junior high teams can remain at the junior high level for qualifying and state tournaments, he said.

“If girls wrestling is sanctioned for next season, it will spark the numbers,” Hearter said. “You’ll want more girls in order to wrestle dual meets.”

Regional tournaments also are being held Sunday in the east, northeast and central parts of the state. For the meet at Kiski Area, Heater said, tickets will be available at the door. They will cost $10 for adults and $5 for children.

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