Kiski Area wrestling continues dominance, tops Burrell

Friday, January 14, 2022 | 9:53 PM

Covid wreaked havoc with last year’s winter sports season, and the annual wrestling clash between Alle-Kiski Valley rivals Burrell and Kiski Area was one of the big events which fell victim to cancellation.

But the match returned Friday night in front of a spirited crowd at Burrell High School.

The visiting Cavaliers, who have controlled the series for a majority of the past decade, added another victory, 39-24 over the Bucs.

“Here at Burrell, it is a little more compact than at our place, but it always is a great environment for this match at either place,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said.

“We are so fortunate to have two good programs this close to each other. Throughout most of the year, we help each other, work out with each other and do things to make each other better. That is, except for one night of the year, and that is tonight. It’s like two brothers battling and fighting. We step on the mat and go at it, and when it’s over, it’s over. Then we’re back to helping each other again. It’s just a fun match each year.”

Kiski Area’s win was its 10th in a row over Burrell. The Bucs last won in 2011.

The Cavaliers came into the match sixth in the Triblive HSSN Class AAA rankings, and the Bucs are the top-ranked team in Class AA.

“This is so good for each team and for the communities to have this match back,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t wrestle it last year. Kiski Area always is a tough program, and it’s a great opportunity to wrestled good kids. They always push us to be better. We’ll learn from this match, regroup and get back to work.”

Each team scored a pair of pins — Kiski Area’s Clayton Cramer (106) and Antonio Giordano (126) and Burrell’s Calio Zanella (113) and Cooper Hornack (120) — before the Cavaliers took the lead for good at 132.

Ryan Klingensmith used two takedowns and an escape to build a 5-0 lead over Nikolas Ferra before finishing off a 6-3 win to improve to 14-4 on the season.

“We were really ready for this match, and it felt good,” Klingensmith said.

“There was some talk back and forth before the match, but it’s fun. It’s been a rivalry for a while. The kid I wrestled (Ferra) is pretty strong, but I just did what I needed to do to get the win.”

Logan Bechtold followed Klingensmith’s lead and produced a 7-1 decision over Burrell’s Isaac Lacinski at 138 for an 18-12 Cavaliers advantage.

One of the more competitive bouts of the night then came at 145 as Kiski Area’s Ethan Connor and Burrell’s Shawn Szymanski were close for the entire six minutes.

It was tied 5-5 heading to the third. Connor yielded an escape point to Szymanski to begin the third at neutral. Szymanski then put it away midway through the third with a takedown to win 8-5.

“Shawn is a senior, and he has battled a lot of good kids. It just seems like he’s always come up a little bit short,” Shields said.

“It is great to see him get a quality win in a really tight match against a tough kid in Connor. Shawn is a kid who always outworks everyone, and to see him be rewarded like that will only pay dividends down the stretch.”

Burrell pulled to within three at 18-15 with the victory, but Kiski Area then took control.

The Cavaliers won the next three bouts. Mark Gray scored a pin in 18 seconds at 152, Brayden Miller followed with a 1:05 pin at 160, and Enzo Morlacci picked up a forfeit win at 172.

Just like that, Kiski Area had a 36-15 lead, and the match was out of reach for the Bucs.

Despite the deficit, Burrell kept battling and won the next two bouts as Nico Zanella topped Donavin Harbison, 2-0, at 189 and Cole Clark pinned Carter Dilts with just 6 seconds remaining in the third period.

Stone Joseph capped the scoring for Kiski Area at heavyweight as he controlled the action against Luke Boylan en route to a 10-3 win.

Both teams have quick turnarounds as they will be in duals action Saturday.

After Friday’s match, Burrell made the trek north and east for the Ultimate Duals at Brookville High School. The six-team event also features the host Raiders, District 6’s Chestnut Ridge, and District 10’s Reynolds, Fort LeBoeuf and Saegertown.

“We’re definitely going to have some tough tests (Saturday),” Shields said. “We have five matches, and all five teams are ranked in the top 25 in the state. A couple of them are in the top five. There’s no option than to turn the page quickly.”

Kiski Area will take to the mat at the Connellsville Duals. Of its five matches, three are against WPIAL teams: Class AAA No. 5 Canon-McMillan, No. 3 Connellsville and No. 9 Penn-Trafford.

“We’re going to have some pretty tough matches. Hopefully, we can wrestle well,” Heater said.

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

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