Lineup loaded with WPIAL qualifiers breeds confidence for Bethel Park wrestling

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Saturday, December 2, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Nine members of the Bethel Park wrestling program have been WPIAL qualifiers in their careers.

It’s an impressive list: Mason Kernan (139 pounds), Ethan Higgins (145), Landon Hartman (215), Jaden Palombine (107), Aiden Bench (127), Aden Stout (133), Hunter Goelz (172), Seth Miller (127) and Maksim Miller (160).

A.J. Tomaino (172) and Ryan Walsh (189) also are returning starters. Walsh suffered a season-ending injury after starting out 5-1 in 2022-23. He posted a 31-6 record as a freshman.

“This team has a chance to do and be something special with a variety of seniors along with various incoming talented freshman,” Bethel Park coach Tyler Neuman said. “They need to continue to work to improve and push one another but if they can do that, I believe they can fight for a spot in the top four in the WPIAL.

“I said last year’s team was tough and injuries depleted us. No excuse, but this year’s team even better and also bigger.”

Kernan is a high-profile senior competitor who was a PIAA qualifier in 2021-22, placed sixth in the WPIAL last season and was the 2023 NHSCA Individual National Junior runner-up.

A West Virginia recruit, Kernan started out 15-0 last year and won 17 in a row in the second half of the season. He logged he most technical falls (19) in the WPIAL and finished in the top three in the state.

Kernan will be approaching the century mark in career victories in the not-too-distant future. He was 33-5 last year, 38-5 as a sophomore and 14-4 in his freshman season, giving him an 85-14 career record prior to the start of the 2023-24 season.

“I have said it since my first practice with Mason. This kid is extremely talented,” Neuman said. “Last year didn’t end his way, but the rest the season before WPIALs and this offseason, Mason has proven how good he really is. He can wrestle and wrestle well in all three positions. I look forward to Mason to compete for a WPIAL and state title.”

Hartman and Bench also are seniors. Hartman was 26-7 last season and 26-16 as a sophomore. He did not wrestle in his freshman year.

Hartman is a pin specialist as 39 of his 52 victories have been by fall.

Bench has progressed from 11-5 to 21-6 to 24-13 in his three years in the starting lineup.

Higgins, Palombine, Stout, Goelz, Seth Miller and Maksim Miller are juniors.

The Black Hawks have some impressive freshman talent joining the program that the coaches undoubtedly are looking forward to working with over the next four years.

Joining the team this season are Pierce Reinhart, the reigning junior high state champion at 121, and junior high state qualifiers Colton Fisher, Caleb Crawford and Ian Bucheli.

“I have big expectations for our freshmen,” Neuman said. “There is a group of four, maybe five, of them that have grown up wrestling together for a while and it shows.

“They are good buddies. They like to compete and challenge themselves and they are very skilled. Each of them should have a positive effect on our lineup and can do very well individually.”

Last year, the Black Hawks took first place at the season-opening 15-team Eastern Area Invitational at Gateway, then won four of five matches at the Moon Duals. They also captured four of five matches late in the season at the Pine-Richland Duals.

The Black Hawks finished 12-6 overall and 3-2 in Section 6-3A. Section opponents are Baldwin, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair. Canon-McMillan placed fifth at the Southwest regional last season and ninth in the state.

Bethel Park, also an annual participant in the prestigious Powerade tournament, opens the new year with section matches Jan. 3 at home against Upper St. Clair and Jan. 10 at Mt. Lebanon.

The Allegheny County Championships will take place Jan. 19-20 at Fox Chapel.

“We look forward to competing in the toughest region in the country and growing better each day,” Neuman said. “Good luck to all this season.”

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