Plum wrestlers dethrone Kiski Area, claim section title

Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | 10:07 PM

Plum wrestling coach Mike Supak rolled out a few last-minute changes to his lineup Wednesday night and the plan paid off as the visiting Mustangs halted Kiski Area’s dominating run of six WPIAL section titles in impressive fashion.

“This win puts us in a better position” a happy Supak said with a wink.

No. 8 Plum jumped on Kiski Area early, winning four of the first five bouts, and rolled to a 47-20 decision to claim the Section 1-3A banner and assure itself of a better seed entering the WPIAL team tournament beginning Jan. 30.

The top three teams in each section will be entered.

For Plum (8-1, 4-0), it marked the second victory of the season against Kiski Area (7-8, 3-1), which came in having won six section titles from 2017-22.

“This is definitely a satisfying result because we’re trying to get ourselves lined up to make a run in the playoffs,” Supak said. “I think we have a pretty good team. We made a few changes, and I don’t think they were expecting some of the guys we sent out there. We know they always wrestle tough.”

Junior Antonino Walker returned from an injury absence to score a tight 6-5 decision over Kiski Area’s Mark Gray at 172, while Supak inserted Andrew Claassen opposite Donavin Harbison, whom Classsen pinned in 2 minutes, 49 seconds.

Walker’s presence necessitated Jack Tongel’s move up one spot in the lineup to 189, where he suffered an 11-0 major decision loss to Kiski Area’s Cooper Roscosky.

Owen Campbell (107), Rylen Campbell (114), Sam Snyder (121), Trent Reese (133), Carl Raitano (139), Charlie Campbell (145) and Julien Sepelyak (160) accounted for the other victories for Plum, which also defeated Kiski Area, 41-30, in the third-place match at the Hampton Duals on Dec. 10.

“We kind of thought this would be a much closer match than it was,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “They wrestled really well against us tonight. Credit those guys for wrestling as hard as they did.”

Besides Claassen, two other Plum wrestlers — Reese and Sepelyak — came away with pins. Snyder, meanwhile, won by technical fall over Amari McNeil after taking a 16-1 lead with just four seconds left.

Ryan Klingensmith (127), Logan Bechtold (152) and Jack Crider (285) joined Roscosky as Kiski Area’s victors, Crider’s win coming by injury default against Olandis Freeman, who left the mat in the first period with a knee injury.

Supak said it was too early to tell when Freeman might return to the Plum lineup.

Plum is scheduled to wrestle on Friday and Saturday at the annual Allegheny County Championships at Fox Chapel.

For now, Kiski Area, which is idle until a trip on Wednesday to Shaler, must settle for runner-up in the section, where the Cavaliers have finished on top a total of 27 times, beginning in 1972.

During its recent run of six section championships, Kiski Area also captured three consecutive WPIAL Class 3A titles from 2017-19 and finished as the PIAA runner-up in 2018. The Cavs also earned a pair of third-place showings in 2017 and 2019.

The decorated wrestling banner inside the Kiski Area gymnasium contains all but the three most recent section titles (2020-22), which won’t go up on the wall until a second banner is added. The original banner is full with the school’s first 24 championship years listed.

“That’s definitely a goal to get on there,” Heater said. “That’s something we really felt like we worked hard enough to achieve this year. We just didn’t do enough tonight.”

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