Kiski Area’s Connor, Blumer defend WPIAL wrestling titles
Saturday, March 2, 2019 | 10:55 PM
Connor finished his WPIAL wrestling career by winning his second consecutive title, beating Thomas Jefferson’s Alex Weber, 9-1, in the 152-pound final of the Class AAA tournament Saturday night. And, fittingly enough, Cavaliers junior Jack Blumer wrestled directly after Connor and claimed a back-to-back title of his own, beating Mars’ Jake Richardson in the 160-pound final.
“It feels just as good as the first one,” Connor said. “I came in, had a tough semifinals match. I didn’t wrestle my best, and I knew I just had to come into the finals, wrestle my match, get to my shots.”
Connor and Blumer became the fifth and sixth two-time WPIAL champions from Kiski Area, joining Bob Banks (1972-73), Scott McKillop (2003-04), Shane Kuhn (2013-14) and Tyler Worthing (2014-15).
“I came in here saying I needed to back it up because I won it last year,” Blumer said. “So I was like, I have to. And after I saw my teammate win, I (said), ‘Yeah, for sure, I need to win this.’ ”
It was the latest strong performance for the Cavaliers, who had four individual champions last year and won the WPIAL team title in February. In addition to Blumer and Connor, senior Darren Miller and junior Nick Delp qualified for next weekend’s PIAA Class AAA tournament in Hershey. Miller fell, 4-2, in the 126-pound final to defending champion Colton Camacho of Franklin Regional, and Delp overcame a one-point semifinal loss to place third at 170.
“It’s always very tough down here,” said Kiski Area coach Chris Heater, who also was named Class AAA coach of the year Saturday. “I think everybody always says sometimes it’s harder to come out of this region than it is to go to states and medal, and I think a lot of years that’s very true.”
Blumer and Connor came into the tournament with significant targets given their status not only as returning champions, but also as the top seeds in their bracket. And both survived big tests to win their second straight titles.
Connor outlasted Waynesburg’s Luca Augustine in the semifinals, 3-2, but got to his offense much more against Weber in the final, scoring three takedowns and getting two nearfall points late in the match.
“Once you hit individual postseason, the only thing that matters is a ‘W,’ ” said Connor, a Penn recruit. “If you win by a point or you tech fall a kid, it’s the same thing — you’re moving on. That’s all I wanted to do.”
Blumer said he faced Richardson before at Young Guns Wrestling Club, but never in a live drill, so he didn’t know what to expect. A second-period reversal put him on top, and he stayed there — riding out Richardson for nearly the entire period and securing the win with a takedown in the waning seconds of the third.
“I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie, before that match,” Blumer said. “I didn’t know anything about him. … It was just new. I felt like if I got on top, I was going to come out with a win.”
Miller became Kiski Area’s all-time wins leader with an 8-2 decision over Connellsville’s Jared Keslar in the semifinals, setting up a rematch with Camacho in the finals.
After Miller beat Camacho twice earlier this season, Camacho got some revenge. A pair of first-period takedowns, one early and another late, gave Camacho the early edge, and he fended off Miller’s late takedown attempts to win.
“On my first two shots, I wasn’t in close enough and wasn’t able to move him too well,” Miller said. “My last two shots, I was getting in well. One went out of bounds, and the other ran out of time. It’s tough to beat a guy a few times in a row.”
Delp fell, 4-3, to North Allegheny’s Jon Hoover in the semifinals, a match that included a penalty point against the Kiski Area junior. He recovered to beat Indiana’s A.J. Ryan by major decision in the consolation semifinals and then Peters Township’s Jeff Markert by 3-2 decision in the finals.
“I was just focused on getting my goal and that was to win and take first,” Delp said. “But if I couldn’t take first, and losing one match, the next-best thing was third and wrestling back for third.”
Blumer, Conner, Delp and Miller were the only four Alle-Kiski Valley wrestlers to earn top-four finishes and qualify for the PIAA tournament, which begins Thursday in Hershey.
Kiski Area’s Dom Giordano and Stone Joseph, Plum’s Vince Citrano and Armstrong’s Logan Harmon, who attends Apollo-Ridge, fell in the consolation semifinals, ultimately finishing one win shy of a trip to states.
Miller placed third at the PIAA tournament in 2017, and Connor took seventh last season.
“It’s real tough to crack the podium up in Hershey,” Connor said. “Everyone’s giving you their best. Everyone’s fighting to make it to the next match.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Doug at 412-388-5830, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Tags: Kiski School
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