Kiski Area wrestlers dominate at opening day at Southwest Regionals

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Friday, March 2, 2018 | 11:48 PM


Darren Miller's headgear popped off in the early seconds of his match against Connellsville's Dylan Keefer on Friday, crashing to the mat as the Kiski Area junior scored a takedown.

Miller paid it no attention. He had other things on his mind, like securing a spot in the WPIAL semifinals.

“I just had to finish the match,” Miller said.

Which he did, emphatically, registering a first-period technical fall to advance to the 120-pound semifinals of the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Class AAA championships Friday night at Canon-McMillan.

“My mentality is, I've got to wrestle more aggressive than anyone,” said Miller, who finished third at 106 pounds last season before bumping up two weight classes this season. “If I do that, then I have a chance.”

Kiski Area collected more chances to come away with an individual champion than any other team at the two-day, double-elimination tournament, which resumes Saturday morning with second-round consolations, with semifinals and finals to follow later in the day. As many as seven Cavaliers could claim their first WPIAL titles after advancing to the semifinals: Miller (120), Noah Levett (138), Cam Connor (145), Jack Blumer (152), Nick Delp (160), Danny Starr (195) and Isaac Reid (285).

Kiski Area led the team standings with 63.5 points, ahead of second-place Waynesburg (56).

In addition to the Cavaliers' seven semifinalists, another four wrestlers remain alive in the consolation bracket, giving Kiski Area ample opportunity to break the program record of five PIAA tournament qualifiers; the top four finishers in each weight class advance to the state championships in Hershey.

“If (all 11 qualify), I might run to Hershey,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “That'd be crazy. But it's hard to bet against our guys because they wrestle hard. They put everything they have out there. We've got guys focused on six minutes at a time, and we've got guys in the (consolations) focused on five minutes at a time. You just wrestle as hard as you can for the amount of time that you're out there, and let it all fly.”

Heater's wrestlers embraced that message wholeheartedly during the second session Friday night. Seven of the eight Cavaliers in the quarterfinal round won their matches, and so did the three Cavaliers who were wrestling their first consolation bouts.

Reid, the top-seeded wrestler at 285 pounds, scored a 39-second pin after getting one in 46 seconds in the first round. Connor posted a 10-3 decision over Seneca Valley's Nick Montalbano. Delp blanked Central Catholic's Vincenzo Rauso in his quarterfinal. Starr outlasted Baldwin's Gehrig Hutchinson, 3-2.

“It just shows the youth out there, even in the community, even around the state that through hard work, you can accomplish awesome things,” Reid said. “I think our team and our coaching staff are a perfect example of that.”

There was a nervous moment for Kiski Area in the quarterfinals, as Levett — the top seed at 138 pounds — suffered a leg injury in the third period of his 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Connellsville's Colin Franks.

As Levett went for a takedown, Franks' head came into contact with his knee. Trainers attended to Levett as he sat on the mat, and they wrapped the knee with ice after he finished off the victory. The ice was removed within the hour, and Levett said he should be ready for Saturday.

“No one wants to end their season from an injury, so that was my biggest thought,” said Levett, a three-time WPIAL placewinner seeking his first title. “I didn't want to be done off a little injury. I'm just going to have to ice up and be back (Saturday).”

Blumer's 7-4 quarterfinal win over Belle Vernon's Brock Godzin, his second of the season over the returning PIAA placewinner, set up a semifinal rematch against Hempfield's Luke Kemerer, who beat Blumer, 4-2, in the finals of the Section 1-AAA tournament last week.

“It gives me another shot,” Blumer said. “That's what I wanted the whole time, since the section finals.”

Dom Giordano (113 pounds), Jared Curcio (138), Collin Murray (170) and Logan Pollick (182) remain alive for Kiski Area in the consolation bracket. Pollick advanced to the quarterfinals before losing a decision to Thomas Jefferson's Max Shaw.

Fox Chapel's Donovan Cutchember remains alive in the 220-pound consolation bracket after falling to Upper St. Clair's Jake Slinger in the quarterfinals.

As pleased as he was with the team effort Friday, Heater noted it will only get tougher for Kiski Area's wrestlers on the second day of the tournament. To qualify for Hershey, wrestlers must reach either the championship or consolation finals.

Semifinals begin at noon, with the consolation finals at 5:30 p.m. and the championship finals at 7.

“It's a dogfight in here,” Miller said. “It is any year, though, but this year there's harder competition. That just means I have to go out and wrestle hard.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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