Penn-Trafford wrestlers look to take next step at individual section tournament

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Monday, February 17, 2020 | 9:48 AM


Coming into the 2019-20 season, Penn-Trafford first-year wrestling coach AJ Brentzel knew it might be a tough winter as he tried to rebuild the program’s winning culture.

He knew it would take more than one season.

The Warriors are 2-4 and did not qualify for the playoffs in Section 1-AAA, but they have seven wrestlers who have at least 10 wins. Of those seven, five have a winning percentage of at least .679.

In their final tune-up before the individual section tournament, the Warriors lost to Greensburg Salem in what Brentzel described as a “really rough match.”

Now, the Warriors turn their attention to individual sectionals, which are Feb. 22 at Kiski Area.

In addition to section titles, spots in the WPIAL tournament, which takes place the following weekend, will be up for grabs.

“We’re young, and we’re looking forward to seeing if some of our guys can improve toward the end of the year here,” Brentzel said. “I think a lot of guys should potentially qualify, but it’s a matter of if they perform or not. We need to be stronger than we have been performing.”

Tony Zona (23-9), one of three seniors, leads the Warriors in wins. Fourteen of his victories have come by fall.

Last year at the section tournament, Zona placed third to qualify for the WPIAL championships. Zona has 82 career wins and has been top six in three individual section events.

“He’s our bellcow,” Brentzel said. “He’s shown some real potential and has a chance to do really well at sections. He’s been trying to take a leadership role too with the guys.”

Zona likely will compete at 170 pounds.

Lucas Paszek, a junior, is 19-9, with nine wins by fall and 14 in all with at least an extra point. He finished sixth in the past two section events and will wrestle at 138 if all goes as planned.

Sophomore Troy Hohman is 14-2 after winning 21 matches last season and placing fourth at 106 pounds. Freshman Boaz Chishko is 19-9 and junior Ryan Auel is 17-13, which matches his win total from last season. Wrestling at 113, Auel won the fifth-place match by fall at the Section 1 tournament last season. He moved up in weight class this season.

Senior Peyton Kelly has placed fifth at the last two Section 1 events and is 13-6 this season.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that have potential,” Brentzel said. “We’ve had a difficult first year, but if we can make some improvements and have some success here, that’s a good building block. We’ve seen glimpses, but it takes time, which can be frustrating.”

In terms of how the Warriors are preparing for sections, Brentzel said they haven’t changed much. He knows how to prepare, after all. Brentzel won 116 matches at Penn-Trafford and finished in the top three in the individual section tournaments all four years, including a title for the 2007 alum.

“At this point, you’re kind of on autopilot. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t know that you will,” he said.

The Warriors foes from Section 1A-AAA include Kiski Area, Norwin, Franklin Regional, Plum and Central Catholic. Section 1B’s Hempfield, Greater Latrobe, Greensburg Salem, Gateway, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills also will compete at the tournament.

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