Magin, Kazalas cap Quaker Valley careers on PIAA podium

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Friday, March 15, 2019 | 8:12 PM


At the beginning of the season, seniors Geoff Magin and John Rocco Kazalas weren’t ready to say Quaker Valley’s 3-year-old wrestling program had a tradition of excellence.

Their goal was to win WPIAL and PIAA championships. Maybe then they could boast about their accomplishments.

Though the pair fell short at states — Kazalas was fifth at 145 pounds and Magin sixth at 195 — they made their mark on a program started from scratch that will be felt for years to come, according to coach Mike Heinl.

The team’s three seniors, including Bradley Fadeley, combined for 247 career wins and seven podium finishes at WPIALs.

“I don’t know if I can put this into words,” Heinl said. “They are like my own (kids). They’re leaders to everyone else here and not just because of wrestling, but also the way they conducted themselves on the mat, in practice and in the classroom.”

The team’s recent performance at WPIALs alone —QV was the only Class AA team with at least four wrestlers to compete for individual championships — showed how much the team has developed since its inception.

“I didn’t expect the team to have as much success as it has whenever we first got our program,” Kazalas said. “Most of the guys were new to wrestling, so we did exponentially better than I thought we would have. I’m incredibly proud of everyone and appreciate our coaches.”

Magin said the team’s success this season should put other schools on notice that the Quakers will be contenders for years to come.

“We weren’t expected to do this well even this year, especially by everyone outside of our team,” Magin said. “Now there are expectations. Everyone is going to expect us to send wrestlers to WPIALs and states every year and to send wrestlers to college afterwards.”

With Magin and Kazalas finishing on the podium, it is the first time Quaker Valley had at least two wrestlers place at states in the same year. Sophomore Conner Redinger was second at 106 last season, but did not place at 132 in his second trip to Hershey.

The highlight of Magin’s run in the tournament — he jumped up two weight classes in the last month of the season — was beating No. 2 seed Colin Fegley by a 7-6 decision.

“I didn’t know he was ranked that high,” Magin said. “I don’t look at the brackets to find out what the seeds are. I just want to go out and wrestle and not hold anything back. I was pretty happy when I found out he was one of the best wrestlers there. That was a big moment for me.”

Kazalas earned three victories, two by pin and one by a major decision. His two losses in the tournament were to the second- and third-place finishers.

His last match for Quaker Valley was a win over Berlin-Brothersvalley’s Tristan Pugh, a rematch from regionals that Kazalas lost.

“It’s pretty special to be able to go out with a win in your last match, especially when you can make up for that one regional loss,” Kazalas said. “Even though I didn’t finish where I wanted to be, I’m proud of being able to come in fifth. I’m proud of how far this whole team has come.”

Heinl said his seniors have accomplished something just as important as individual accolades by inspiring the next generation of Quaker Valley wrestlers.

“They set the bar, and its pretty high up there,” Heinl said. “We certainly have some kids that can catch them. We have a bright future with a lot of wrestlers on the team and with the kids in our junior high and elementary programs.”

The next wave of Quaker Valley wrestlers, Magin said, can surpass their individual accomplishments and excel further as a team.

“When I was asked before the season if we had a tradition of excellence yet, I think I had to say no because I don’t think anyone thought of us that way yet,” Magin said. “I know there are a lot of younger guys that are gonna do a lot better than JR and I have ever done, and that’s what everyone is going to expect.”

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