Kiski Area wrestlers to rely on experience at PIAA tournament

Tuesday, March 5, 2019 | 8:55 PM

With top-three finishes at the PIAA Class AAA team championships each of the past three seasons, Kiski Area knows the feeling of wrestling in Hershey’s Giant Center.

But the wrestlers who will represent the Cavaliers at the state individual tournament this week know it’s a completely different animal.

“It’s all you out there,” junior Jack Blumer said. “You don’t have your team to help you out.”

Isaac Reid won the second PIAA championship in Kiski Area history last season, joining Matt McCutcheon, and a quartet of Cavaliers — Blumer, Cam Connor, Nick Delp and Darren Miller — will try to match that feat when the PIAA Class AAA tournament begins Thursday afternoon.

All four have experience at the individual championships and will lean on that this week.

Darren Miller, Kiski Area

Senior, 126 pounds

Record: 41-2

Miller became the Cavaliers’ all-time winningest wrestler at last weekend’s WPIAL tournament before falling 4-2 in the finals against Franklin Regional’s Colton Camacho.

The matchup with Camacho, a returning PIAA runner-up, has been prevalent throughout the season for Miller, who beat the Franklin Regional senior in the finals at both the Eastern Area and Section 1-AAA tournaments. They’re on opposite ends of the state bracket.

“Hopefully, we’ll see each other again in the finals,” Miller said. “You just know you’re wrestling a good guy. You’ve got to be able to get to your stuff. You know it’s going to be a huge battle before you go in.”

A third-place medalist at the PIAA tournament in 2017, Miller missed out on qualifying last season. But the Bucknell recruit had a career year, winning Eastern Area, Westmoreland County and Section 1-AAA championships. His lone losses came to Camacho in the WPIAL finals and to Sam Hillegas of North Hills in the finals at the Powerade Christmas Tournament.

Hillegas, a two-time PIAA champ, also is the only wrestler this season to ride out Miller, who is strong when on bottom.

“(When I’m at my best, I’m) able to move the guy to whatever shot I need or I want to hit, ride tough on top and getting an escape or reversal on bottom,” Miller said.

Cam Connor, Kiski Area

Senior, 152 pounds

Record: 46-2

Connor, a Penn recruit, goes into the PIAA tournament as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Kiski Area history, with 159 wins — one behind Miller on the Cavaliers’ all-time list — and two WPIAL championships, the second of which he claimed last week.

After finishing seventh at the 2018 PIAA tournament, Connor is aiming even higher this season and goes into the championships as the top seed in his weight class.

“You’ve just got to treat (the state tournament) like any other match,” Connor said. “You can’t get freaked out by being in the arena and wrestling some kids from all over the state. You’ve just got to go out there and wrestle like it’s just another match or like you’re in the practice room.”

Connor worked on his strength and physicality in the offseason, and it paid off on the mat: He has 31 pins, a career high and among the best in the state. In addition to his second consecutive WPIAL title, Connor won at the Eastern Area, Westmoreland County Coaches Association and Section 1-AAA tournaments and finished third at Powerade.

“(It’s about) just (being) confident in my offense and also just physical — I’ve got to go out there and be physical with my handfighting and that kind of stuff,” he said. “Just going out there and getting to your attacks is like the No. 1 thing for me.”

Jack Blumer, Kiski Area

Senior, 160 pounds

Record: 41-3

Blumer followed right in Connor’s footsteps by becoming a two-time WPIAL champion last week, and after not medaling at the PIAA tournament last season, he wants to rectify that this season.

“The crowd (at states), almost, it’s just nerve-racking,” Blumer said. “A lot of people are watching, and the kids, there’s not one easy match up at states. They’re all good, they’re all supposed to be there. It’s just competitive.”

The junior makes a habit of righting old wrongs: He beat Hempfield’s Luke Kemerer in the WPIAL semifinals last season after losing to him in the section tournament, and this season he felt most proud of medaling at Powerade after not doing so as a sophomore. He beat West Allegheny’s Ty McGeary in the fifth-place match after losing to McGeary early in the season.

Blumer leads Kiski Area with 32 pins this season and hasn’t lost since Powerade.

“Trying to get to my attacks, that’s the main goal,” Blumer said. “But if not, I’m looking for scrambles. If they’re shooting in, I’m looking for sprawling scrambling, to see what they’re about with scrambling.”

Nick Delp, Kiski Area

Senior, 170 pounds

Record: 42-5

Delp knows how it feels to beat the top-ranked wrestler in a state, as he pulled that off against Shane Reitsma of Howell (N.J.) at the Powerade Christmas Tournament.

“Powerade’s always a big tournament, and making it to the semis at Powerade is pretty awesome because I knew I was going to place there, and I wanted to do better than I did last year,” said Delp, who ultimately finished fourth at what’s considered one of the top tournaments in the country.

Coming off a third-place finish at the WPIAL tournament, Delp also has a chance to improve his finish from the 2018 PIAA championships, where he didn’t place after falling in the third round of consolations, also known as the “blood round.”

Delp won Eastern Area, Westmoreland County and section titles this season and also excels at pins, registering 27 on the season.

“(I want to) go after it, have fun, try and get in on your shots and get to your technique,” Delp said. “Most of the time (I like to be offensive), but other times I like to get into a scramble. I’m not afraid to scramble if someone does get a shot on me.”

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


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