Kiski Area wrestlers top Franklin Regional, repeat as section champs

Wednesday, January 26, 2022 | 10:01 PM

For the 26th time in program history, the Kiski Area wrestling team is section champion.

The Cavaliers won twice Wednesday at Franklin Regional and capped the evening with a 40-29 victory over the host Panthers to bring home the Section 1-3A title for the second year in a row.

“It’s a great feeling to win this, and it is a part of the process,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said.

“Last year was difficult with covid, and this year still has its challenges. I really appreciate how this team continues to buy into everything and how hard they are working. We have guys kind of changing weights and wrestling some guys in places we haven’t before. If we are going to go any further, we need to have that all-in attitude and mentality.”

All four teams at the section tournament move on to WPIAL Class 3A team tournament. The seeding meeting is Thursday, and the qualifying teams are expected to find out who they will face in first-round matches slated for Feb. 2.

In addition to the champion Cavaliers and the runner-up Panthers, Penn-Trafford and Armstrong also are set for the WPIAL tournament.

The River Hawks edged the Warriors, 36-34, in the third-place match.

Kiski Area, No. 6 this week in the TribLive HSSN Class 3A rankings, defeated No. 9 Penn-Trafford, 59-9, in one of the semifinals. No. 7 Franklin Regional topped Armstrong, 42-23, to advance to the finals.

“The greatest challenges come in adversity,” said Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe, who saw his previously undefeated Panthers move to 6-1 overall on the season.

“Credit (Kiski Area). There were a couple close matches we thought were important to win, and they came out on the right side of both of them. We were just proud of our guys’ effort. Now it comes down to how we respond from here.”

Kiski Area jumped to an early 12-0 lead on the strength of a pin from Carter Dilts at 215 pounds and a forfeit win by Stone Joseph at heavyweight.

Tyler Kapusta earned six points for Franklin Regional with a pin at 106.

One of the closest bouts of the match came at 113, where Kiski Area’s Amari McNeil and Franklin Regional’s Nico Sarnic went to overtime.

McNeil led 3-0 in the second period before Sarnic scored a reversal and two nearfall points to lead 4-3.

Sarnic then extended his lead to 5-3 with an escape early in the third before McNeil earned a takedown with 39 seconds on the clock.

McNeil then got a takedown with 24 seconds left in the extra period and added three nearfall points to set the 10-5 final.

“That was one of the weights where we thought was a swing match,” Heater said.

“It was pretty important to kind of getting us going. For Amari to tie it up, ride (Sarnic) out with 39 seconds left to go to overtime, and then coming out on top and getting that takedown, that was big. That was a nice spark for us. That was necessary and part of the plan.”

Antonio Giordano (pin at 120), Ryan Klingensmith (major decision at 126), Logan Bechtold (pin at 132), and Ethan Connor (decision at 138) followed with victories, and Kiski Area got some breathing room at 34-6.

“My first year on the team (in 2020), we came up short for the section title,” said Connor, a senior.

“Last year, we won it, and we came back this year with this as one of our goals. Their guys were talking a little bit (on social media), so we had to show them on the mat in their own gym.”

Franklin Regional’s Nate Stone stopped the Cavaliers run as he scored a technical fall over Riley Shearer at 145, and Gavyn Beck recorded a pin at 160.

The other three matches were forfeits as Kiski Area’s Enzo Morlacci (172) and Franklin Regional’s Finn Solomon (152) and Juliano Marion (189) had their hands raised.

“We just have to get back to practice and work hard like we’ve been doing all year,” Connor said. “We still have a lot ahead of us.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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