Kiski Area wrestling wins annual rivalry match with Burrell

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 | 1:01 AM

With the WPIAL wrestling playoffs looming and both teams gearing up for a title defense, the annual match between Burrell and Kiski Area became even more of a postseason primer.

The Alle-Kiski Valley powers lived up to their reputations, as Class AAA No. 2 Kiski Area built an early lead and held off a rally from Class AA No. 1 Burrell to secure a 40-25 victory in the rivalry match Tuesday night at Kiski Area.

The host Cavaliers (9-1) won eight of 14 bouts, getting bonus points in six, to beat the Bucs for the seventh consecutive time.

“It was a great match,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “I knew it would be. It's two great programs. We have a long history of battling with those guys, and it wasn't anything unexpected.”

Steady snow and slick road conditions didn't keep a strong crowd from turning up for the match. Both teams won WPIAL titles in their respective classifications last season, and both are among the favorites to do so again this season.

“This is an ongoing rivalry, and it's going to be a battle, tooth and nail,” Burrell assistant Chris Como said. “Our guys are going to show up to compete because this is a cross-town rivalry. There's a lot of respect across both programs. Our kids showed up. They went out and battled hard, and that's all we could ever ask of them.”

The teams' familiarity only added to the circumstances, as the wrestlers frequent the same clubs and face each other from their earliest days of wrestling.

“It's just fun competing against them, just knowing them since 5- or 6-year-olds,” Kiski Area junior Cam Connor said.

The match featured six pins — from Kiski Area's Noah Levett (138 pounds), Connor (145), Danny Starr (195) and Troy Kuhn (220) and Burrell's Trent Valovchik (106) and Bryan Gaul (126) — but also a handful of either-or bouts.

The pins ultimately turned the match in favor of Kiski Area.

“Bonus points are always huge,” Connor said. “You can't give up bonus, and obviously getting bonus is huge, too. It's a real easy way to win.”

Kiski Area gained an early edge by winning the first four bouts, getting a decision from Logan Pollick at 182 followed by Starr's and Kuhn's pins. Heavyweight Isaac Reid, making his season debut after overcoming a blood clot, won by forfeit to make it 21-0.

But Burrell, which lost 65-3 to Kiski Area last season, battled back. The Bucs (2-2) won four of the next five bouts — a pin by Valovchik, major decision by Ian Oswalt, pin by Gaul and decision by Corrado sandwiched arround a major decision for Kiski Area's Darren Miller — to cut Kiski Area's lead to 25-19.

The Back-to-back pins by Levett and Connor widened Kiski Area's lead once more, leaving Burrell with little space to mount a comeback in the final bouts of the night. The Bucs' Corey Christie and Shaun Gates won by decision, but it wasn't enough. Kiski Area's Colin Murray ended the night with a decision at 170 to set the final score.

“Everyone went out and battled,” Valovchik said. “They did their best. Giving up a few bonus points here and there cost us the match, but all in all I think we wrestled very well.

“They're one of the top teams in the state, and it's always good to get versus better competition. It's going to help us in the long run.”

The match kicked off a busy week for both teams. The Bucs face rival Valley on Wednesday and travel to the Johnson Motors Ultimate Duals on Saturday. Kiski Area hosts Armstrong on Wednesday and Class AAA No. 5 Connellsville on Saturday.

“The old adage is steel sharpens steel, and that's the motto we live by,” Como said.

Said Heater: “There was some brawling out there. To be able to go out there and hammer and go at each other and come out of there unscathed is a good thing right now for both of us.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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