Norwin notebook: Gabby Viola, Xander Eddy earn national kickboxing titles

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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Hungry for Hungary.

A pair of local martial artists earned qualification to the U.S. Kickboxing Team that will compete in the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations Junior World Championships in the fall in Budapest.

Gabby Viola, 13, and Xander Eddy, 15, won national titles recently at the USA Kickboxing Team Trials earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.

This is the first time a black belt — in this case, two — from the Pittsburgh area made the Junior World Championships.

Viola won the -50 KG older cadets female fighting division, while Eddy captured the -57 KG older cadets division.

Viola and Eddy are students at Allegheny Shotokan Martial Arts in North Huntingdon.

Bill Viola, who runs Allegheny Shotokan, was appointed chairman and director of Tatami Sports in the United States. His role is to spearhead USA Kickboxing towards the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane, Australia.

Gabby Viola, Bill Viola’s daughter, won World Kickboxing championships in Ireland (2022) and at WKC Worlds (2023).

Eddy won a kickboxing title in 2018 at the Pan American Championships in Mexico.

Gabby Viola was diagnosed with an incurable bowel disease when she was 7, which makes her accomplishment doubly impressive.

“Gabby flew into the team trials straight from an infusion at UPMC Children’s Hospital,” her father said. “Trying to make weight, fight and win under those conditions is amazing.”

Other Viola students competing at the national championships include Carter Griffin, 12 (gold -37 KG Younger Cadets), Riley Evans, 16 (gold -50 KG Junior Division) and Daniel Barrett, 19 (gold -69 KG Senior Division).

The athletes also will compete in Albufeira, Portugal in October, 2024.

All-section hoops

The Big 56 Conference, which recognizes the accomplishments of WPIAL athletes in the district’s two largest classifications, announced its all-section basketball teams.

Girls’ first-team selections from Section 1-6A included senior Lauren Palangio and junior Kendall Berger of Norwin, while the Knights’ Brian Brozeski was tabbed the section coach of the year.

Seniors Ava Kobus and Bailey Snowberger made the second team, while sophomore Ava Christopher and junior Averi Brozeski made honorable mention.

For the boys, senior Dylan McCullough and sophomore Mario Csukas of Norwin were honorable mention picks.

Fedor to UPJ

Norwin senior Audra Fedor will continue her track and cross country career at Pitt-Johnstown.

Bowlers take 2nd

The Norwin girls bowling team finished second at the WPIBL championships.

In a final match that came down to the final frames of the final game, Plum bowlers threw strikes on their last five balls to win the title at AMF Belle Vernon.

Norwin, which finished third in qualifying, won the first game of the best-of-three Baker format championship finals 168-156. The Mustangs, who topped the field in qualifying, roared back to win the second game 233-196 and the winner-take-all third game 220-192.

It was Plum’s first team championship since 2016.

Norwin defeated Freeport in the semifinals, losing 159-147 in the first game before bouncing back with a 190-153 victory in Game 2 and a 168-146 win in Game 3.

Behind Plum (2,672), Freeport (2,603) and Norwin (2,514), Hempfield (2,351) was fourth and Butler (2,344) was fifth in qualifying. Deer Lakes (2,2282), Montour (2,243), Moon (2,170), Kiski Area (2,151) and Greensburg Salem (2,112) rounded out the top 10.

The WPIBL boys and girls singles championships were set for Feb. 21-22 at AMF Mt. Lebanon.

Indoor track

Norwin’s indoor track and field teams competed in the Tri-State Coaches Association Championships, the next-to-last meet of the season before the state championships.

Melani Schmidt finished third in the 200-meter dash in 26.08 seconds, Anni Czajkowski was fifth in the mile in 5 minutes, 15.55 seconds, and the distance medley relay of Anna Dansak, Autumn Stoken, Emile Dansak and Czajkowski ended third in 12:56.60.

For the boys, Luke Simpson was fourth in the 800 (2 minutes, 15 seconds), Thomas Gaydos took sixth with a personal-best time of 9:17.41, and the 1,600-meter relay was third — Joe Cramer, Luke Simpson, Jeremiah Francis and Eliezer Nicolas — in 3:34.62.

College scene

Updates on Norwin athletes playing in college:

Wrestling

Bucknell: Senior 133-pounder Kurt Phipps opened the scoring for the Bison with a 6-1 decision over Hunter Adrian of Brown as the team won 30-12.

Phipps is ranked No. 14 in the nation in his weight class.

Men’s tennis

Thiel: Freshman Bret Vilage is a player to watch this season in the PAC.

Women’s basketball

Marietta: Senior guard Olivia Gribble had a game-high 13 points, connecting on three 3-pointers, as Marietta (20-5, 15-3) defeated Baldwin Wallace, 71-56, to complete regular-season play.

Women’s indoor track

Edinboro: Sophomore Bernadette Zukina had confidence going into the PSAC Indoor Championships after she broke the school 400-meter race record while winning the race in 57 seconds flat at the SPIRE Indoor Games.

Slippery Rock: Senior Katie Plassio earned All-PSAC honors in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 18 minutes, 10 seconds, good enough for third at the conference finals.

Junior Aleks Brozeski, meantime, placed third in the long jump with a season-best mark of 5.50 meters, which came on her last attempt.

The unique thing about Brozeski is that she was seeded last (18th) coming into the event.

Women’s swimming

Clarion: Junior Jordan Kutchak and helped the 800-yard free relay team to a fourth-place finish, with a time of 7 minutes, 44.44 seconds at the PAC Championships.

Kutchak also helped the 200 medley relay to a second-place finish (1:45.89).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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