Kiski Area wrestlers have ‘unfinished business’ in PIAA Class AAA tournament

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 | 10:42 PM

Kiski Area departed Hershey last February unhappy, or at least as unhappy as anyone can feel in the chocolate capital of the world. As much success as the Cavaliers experienced throughout the team wrestling season, they ended on a sour — not sweet — note: a loss to Bethlehem Catholic in the PIAA Class AAA championship match.

“It’s kind of a heartbreaker, you know, just being in the state finals and (losing),” junior Jack Blumer said. “We wanted that because no Kiski Area team has ever won the state championship. We want to be that first, so we’re going to keep going until we do that.”

The Cavaliers no longer need to wait till next year, because next year is here.

After winning its third consecutive WPIAL Class AAA championship last week, Kiski Area will begin its quest for a state title at 8 p.m. Thursday, squaring off with District 1 third-place team Owen J. Roberts in the first round of the PIAA tournament.

“The mentality going in is definitely just be dominant,” junior Nick Delp said. “We’re trying to steamroll people. If they’re going to put up a fight, everyone’s going to put up a fight. Now it’s postseason, so everyone just wrestle hard, do your job, go out there and have fun. We want to go back to where we were and finish up the business that we didn’t get.”

Kiski Area adopts a team motto each season, and the Cavaliers made it a simple one this time: “unfinished business.” Every tweet from the team’s official account includes it as a hashtag. The wrestlers mention it at each match, and the phrase dots team T-shirts.

But the Cavaliers would know the goal even without talking about it. Last season’s finish matched the team’s best ever at the PIAA tournament, joining its runner-up placement in 2003. Kiski Area also finished third in 2017, so a state championship remains the unfulfilled goal.

“There’s unfinished business, for sure, but we’ve just got to take it one match at a time,” senior Cam Connor said. “Every team up there is going to be tough that we wrestle. We can’t look past any of the teams. We’ll find out who we’re wrestling in the coming days, make a game plan and go from there.”

That mentality served Kiski Area well throughout the season, as the Cavaliers (15-0) wrestled through a difficult schedule and had a dominant run through the WPIAL playoffs. Their 49-17 win over Seneca Valley in the WPIAL final provided the largest margin of victory in a WPIAL championship match in seven years.

“We’re just going to continue to do what we do,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “We’re going to worry about the team in front of us. We’re going to prepare, and we’re going to take them one at a time. Obviously, our kids are focused. They’re looking forward to the tournament.”

After dealing with injuries early in the season, Kiski Area comes into the PIAA tournament at full strength.

But getting through the PIAA tournament unscathed isn’t easy.

Heater said he expects Owen J. Roberts to provide a test because the Wildcats’ strength in the middleweights matches his team’s. Any match after that will bring similar difficulties. Heater said the bottom of the bracket, where Kiski Area resides, features several strong teams.

“It’s a grind, so you’ve got to get the kids in there and out of there,” Heater said. “You’ve got to make sure they’re getting rest. They’re sleeping in a different bed. They’re sleeping in a room with different people than what they typically are at home.

“It’s a different environment. You just have to try to get them as ready and rested and prepared and then step out on the mat and wrestle as hard as they can for six minutes. But that’s all they’ve got to worry about: they just have to worry about six minutes at a time.”

If Kiski Area can get a rematch against Bethlehem Catholic in the finals — the six-time state champion Golden Hawks are on the opposite end of the bracket — the Cavaliers certainly wouldn’t mind. But they don’t want to look that far ahead.

“We don’t care who it’s against,” Delp said. “I’ll put our team against any team up there, honestly. Our team, I think, is one of the best in the country. That’s just my opinion. Whenever everyone shows up and wrestles, we’re a pretty tough team to beat.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.


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