Penn-Trafford wrestlers in good position with mix of youth, experience

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Sunday, December 4, 2022 | 11:01 AM


When A.J. Brentzel took over the Penn-Trafford wrestling program in 2019, his goal was to rebuild the program.

And now he leaves the program in better shape than he got it.

Brentzel passes to coaching torch to assistant coach Travis McKillop this season, and the 30-year-old looks to continue the building process.

While the Warriors’ overall record was 5-11 last season, the team finished second in Section 1B with a 4-1 mark behind Franklin Regional. They reached the WPIAL postseason but dropped a first-round match to Latrobe.

With a new coach comes a new section. Penn-Trafford will now compete in the Section 3-3A with Franklin Regional, Norwin, Ringgold, Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin.

For the individual tournament, Sections 3 and 4 will combine to form an Eastern Sectional. The Section 4 teams are Connellsville, Gateway, Hempfield, Latrobe and McKeesport.

“We have a good mixture of young and old,” McKillop said. “I’m disappointed that a couple wrestlers didn’t come back. I’m excited that the guys in the room are all hard workers. They want to be here.”

Among the returnees include junior Hayden Coy (121 pounds), sophomore Tasso Whipple (172), senior Owen Ott (215) and senior heavyweight Joe Enick.

Also back are senior Draven Hanford (114/121), senior Nate Hernandez (133), senior Adam Hall (189) and senior Dom Hartman (160).

“We have some tough, young kids that are willing to work hard,” McKillop said. “I expect that Hayden, Owen and Joe are capable of big things.

“I feel Tasso and Dom will have strong seasons and the freshman class has a lot of talent. We have young wrestlers coming up that well skilled and battle tested.”

There are five freshmen battling for spots: Dylan Barrett (107), Jake Lang (114), Cael Ott (121), Logan Matrisch (139) and Dylan Clayton (145). The other newcomers are sophomore Logan Ventura (121) and junior Charles Stanton (139).

“Hayden, Joe and Logan have family who have been successful here,” McKillop said. “Hayden’s first two seasons have gone as well as he expected, but I expect him to take his game to another level. The entire team should be improved.”

McKillop takes over at Penn-Trafford with an impressive resume.

He was a four-time section champion, a four-time WPIAL finalist and two-time champ (2008, ’10) at Burrell. He also was a two-time Southwest Regional champion and a PIAA champion in ’11.

At Pitt-Johnstown, he was a four-time All-American, including a two-time runner-up at 184 pounds (2014, ’16). He finished third in ’13 and seventh in ’12.

“Penn-Trafford has hard-nosed kids, and I’m looking forward to watch them grow,” McKillop said. “We have a nice group returning, and I have some studs coming in from the middle school.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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