Kiski Area wrestling continues dominance over rival Armstrong

Wednesday, January 4, 2023 | 10:08 PM

Kiski Area extended its recent dominance of Armstrong on Wednesday night in a high school wrestling series involving neighboring rivals along the border of Westmoreland and Armstrong counties.

The Cavaliers completed their third consecutive no-doubt victory over the visiting River Hawks, handing Armstrong its first loss, 48-21.

“It was a good performance for us,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “We had one forfeit tonight, and we wrestled really well in all three phases. I was really proud of our guys.

It marks the third consecutive victory in the past four seasons in the series for Kiski Area, which routed Armstrong, 57-6, in 2022 and 41-29 in 2021.

“They’re clasically a strong team,” Armstrong coach Brandon Newill said, “with a strong base, with a strong youth program and with a strong junior high program, and it just keeps going. It’s just one of those traditions.”

Kiski Area (6-7, 2-0 Section 1-3A) inched closer to .500 while facing a difficult schedule, which has included a victory over Class 2A No. 4 Mt. Pleasant and losses to No. 8 Hempfield, No. 9 Plum and Class 2A No. 2 Burrell and No. 3 Quaker Valley, as well as national power Malvern (Pa.) Prep.

The Cavaliers, fresh from a long holiday layoff, rode a string of early pins to a 21-0 lead after the 127-pound bout.

Clayton Cramer (107) and Noah Henry (114) got things started in a positive way for Kiski Area with pins before Amari McNeil registered a 4-0 decision at 121.

Ryan Klingensmith then added a pin at 127 to stake Kiski Area to its early lead.

Armstrong (3-1, 1-1) clawed back in contention by claiming the next three, including a forfeit win at 139, to pull within 21-15.

Max Formaini engineered a pin at 133, Dylan Wolfe picked up the forfeit victory for the River Hawks at 139 and Sam Jacobs earned a hard-fought 2-0 decision at 145.

But that was as close as it got as Kiski Area put together another run of successful bouts on mainly pins to put away the match, which lasted only about an hour.

Kiski Area won five of the remaining six classes, with Connor Jacobs getting the only Armstrong victory on a pin at 215.

Logan Bechtold (152), Brayden Miller (160) and Mark Gray (172) registered successive pins, and Jack Crider won 3-0 at 285 for Kiski Area.

While Armstrong was busy at the annual Powerade Tournament at Canon-McMillan over the Christmas break, Heater slowed the pace for Kiski Area after a busy opening to the season.

“We’ve had so many issues we’ve been trying to overcome since the beginning of the year,” Heater said. “We had a really good kid quit from our junior high team, and it opened up a spot on us. We’ve had some injuries that have kept some guys out of the lineup. We just decided to practice over break and give these guys a chance to work on some techniques and kind of refresh them and heal and get guys back in the lineup.”

The plan seemed to have paid off against Armstrong. Newill certainly saw a strong showing from his team’s latest opponent.

“What sets them apart is their attitude, their toughness, their grit,” he said. “If you’re in a 50-50 position, they’re going to win almost every time. Rather than run out, they’ll power into you. They’re really good at that. They get a lot of aggression out of their kids. A lot of times with high school kids, if you don’t have enough experience, that’ll shut them down.”

Newill said he’s hoping his club will rebound as it enters a steady-paced portion of its schedule.

While Kiski Area prepares to participate Friday and Saturday at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament at Greensburg Salem, Armstrong is idle for a week before returning to the mat Wednesday at home against Fox Chapel.

“We want to settle in now,” Newill said. “We’ve got a little bit of time to tweak some things. We’ve only got a match a week for a while.”

Matches at Central Catholic and at Plum follow on each of the next two Wednesdays, Jan. 11 and 18, before a trip to the Ultimate Warrior Tournament on Jan. 27-28 at West Branch.

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