Penn-Trafford wrestler Zona trying to attain elusive spot in PIAA tournament

Saturday, January 18, 2020 | 12:18 AM

Tony Zona has had a successful wrestling career at Penn-Trafford. The 170-pound senior has won more than 75 matches and placed at the postseason section tournament in each season.

But there is one last thing Zona wants to accomplish: qualify for the PIAA tournament.

“I haven’t done that yet in high school,” he said. “I know I need to push myself harder and get some upsets along the way.”

Zona recently had strong showings in a pair of tournaments. He started the 2020 portion of the schedule with a second-place finish at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament. Zona pinned Greensburg Salem’s Dwight Sarver and got a technical fall over Hempfield’s Julian Chillinsky in the opening rounds. In the semifinals, he won a 7-4 decision over Latrobe’s Logan Zitterbart.

Kiski Area’s Nick Delp pinned Zona in the finals.

“Getting to the finals was a great experience,” Zona said. “But I wish I would’ve done better in the finals. I wrestled that kid two weeks before that and went the full match. It was a bummer getting pinned. But if I get to wrestle him again, I want to do better. That’s a goal now.”

He then finished fifth at the Mid-Winter Mayhem tournament at IUP. Zona scored a 6-2 decision over General McLane’s James Laird in the fifth-place match.

“Our team isn’t playoff-bound, so we’ll miss those matches,” Zona said. “But these tournaments have been great ways to make up for that. At IUP, we wrestled kids from different areas and not just the WPIAL. We were able to test ourselves against them.”

Earlier this season, Zona finished fifth at the Eastern Area Invitational and seventh at King of the Mountain.

The Penn-Trafford wrestling team is going through a year of transition. Coach A.J. Brentzel is in his first season, and the Warriors have a young roster. The team has only three seniors and three juniors.

“(Zona) is one of our leaders,” Brentzel said. “He has the experience to help the younger guys. He’s been here and done that. He boosts morale and lets guys know it’s going to be OK and that it is a process.”

Entering the final weeks of the season, Zona is gearing up for one last postseason run. He said he has concentrated on improving his offense and staying on his feet.

“I’ve gotten better at hand fighting,” Zona said. “I need to get to my attacks and commit to taking guys down. When I’m on the bottom, I need to get up quick. I can’t hesitate when getting up.”

Zona will enter the postseason hoping to peak at the right time. When he wrestles at his best, his coach thinks he can finish among the best in the state.

“Hopefully, he can finish his career off right and make it as far as possible,” Brentzel said. “I think he is a possible state qualifier. When he is wrestling well, I can’t see why he can’t be.”


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