Plum wrestling team trying to build off breakthrough season

Tuesday, November 28, 2023 | 8:43 PM

It was a banner year for Plum wrestling, literally.

For the first time in three decades, the Mustangs won a section title, ending Kiski Area’s six-year run as section champ in the process, and won their first ever Allegheny County championship.

Almost all the wrestlers who played a part in last year return, and the expectation is for more as a team and individually.

“I don’t think we had beaten Kiski Area in over 30 years, so it was an important match for the program,” Plum coach Mike Supak said. “That being said, that was last year and this is this year. We still have room for improvement. Some guys were disappointed they didn’t further their individual season last year, so they are working to make the improvements to do that.”

Plum beat Kiski Area, 47-20, to clinch the Section 1-3A title. They beat North Allegheny in the first round of the WPIAL 3A team tournament before falling to eventual runner-up Waynesburg in the quarterfinals.

Owen Campbell had 33 wins as a freshman last season. Carson Yocca and Sam Snyder, who are seniors, also eclipsed 30 victories. Antonino Walker missed some time because of injury but still managed to finish 22-3.

Seniors Charlie Campbell, Jack Tongel and Rylen Campbell and junior Trent Reese all put up more than 20 wins.

Despite all that success, the Mustangs did not have a state qualifier.

Walker placed fifth at WPIALs at 172 pounds, Owen Campbell (107) placed sixth and Rylen Campbell (114) was eighth.

Getting to states is a major goal for many of the Plum wrestlers. A good attitude within the room has helped build each other up as they work toward accomplishing it.

“They definitely feed off each other,” Supak said. “They’re very tight. It’s a good room to be in.”

The other goal is to challenge for a WPIAL team title, something Plum has never won. They’ll have to adjust to being the team to beat in their section, which has been discussed.

“Everybody in the section is going to be gunning for us, and we need to embrace that and use it as motivation to get even further,” Supak said. “All of the teams that were in the top eight last year pretty much have everyone back. If we want to make a run for the WPIAL title, we have to improve and be able to battle those teams gunning for you and come out on top. That all starts with your mentality in the room.”

Kiski Area will look to get back on top after having its section streak snapped.

The Cavaliers lost to Penn-Trafford in a WPIAL play-in match.

They had three state qualifiers last year, but two graduated, including WPIAL champ Ryan Klingensmith.

In total, Kiski Area lost seven wrestlers to graduation.

The returning state qualifier is junior Mark Gray.

Gray took third at WPIALs and placed seventh in the state at 172 pounds. His career record is 60-17.

Cooper Roscosky had an impressive freshman year, finishing 32-10. He placed sixth at 189 pounds at WPIALs.

Other returners include seniors Evan Artman, Clayton Cramer and Riley Shearer.

Fox Chapel finished third behind Plum and Kiski Area in the Section 1-3A standings and returns seven WPIAL qualifiers.

The Foxes made the WPIAL 3A team playoffs and beat Bethel Park in a play-in match, but they fell to Waynesburg in the first round.

“We have higher expectations from a group that is returning a lot of varsity starters from last year,” Foxes coach Michael Frank said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how they compete as a team and individually.”

Alexander Kauffmann, a senior, is the top returning place-winner for the Foxes. He took seventh at WPIALs at 152 pounds and finished 27-8.

Landon Funk was 31-10 as a sophomore at 106 pounds, but he fell short of placing at WPIALs.

Other returning wrestlers with 20 or more wins are senior Josh Alexander, junior D’Angelo Hamilton and junior Michael Worsen.

Central Catholic, Shaler and Armstrong are the other three teams in Section 1-3A.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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