Quaker Valley wrestling chasing program’s 1st section title

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Saturday, December 8, 2018 | 1:18 AM


Quaker Valley wrestling could be on the verge of a breakout year in the program’s third season as a school sport, but the foundation for a top-notch varsity team can be traced further back.

More than 40 wrestlers attended the Quaker Valley Wrestling Association’s first youth practice in 2012, among them JohnRocco Kazalas, a senior who is the program’s all-time wins leader with 94 victories.

“We have a great youth program and support from everyone, which is awesome,” Quaker Valley second-year coach Mike Heinl said. “I watched when it started and the amount of excitement around it. Now, here I am coaching, and I couldn’t be happier.”

The youth wrestlers won the Western Athletic Wrestling Association Conference championship against 21 teams in their inaugural season. Those who have stuck with the sport believe they also can win the program’s first section championship.

“The season is long, and barring injuries and illnesses, I believe we have a good lineup top to bottom,” Heinl said. “We have to overcome some inexperience, but we can wrestle with just about anybody.”

Senior Geoff Magin will be a third-year captain with Kazalas.

They want to be state champions in their respective classes.

“They are two of the most well-rounded, polite, hardworking, dedicated, determined student-athletes I’ve ever come across,” Heinl said. “What separates them is their commitment to the sport. These kids wrestled from April 1st until now and didn’t miss a practice.”

Conner Redinger also will be a PIAA champion hopeful entering the season.

Wrestling at 106, he placed third in PIAA competition as a freshman. He won several state championships as a youth.

“Even though he’s one of the youngest on the team, Conner still shows me stuff every single day,” Magin said. “His mind is crazy. He’s thinking up new moves all the time.I think wrestling is all he thinks about. Having so many wrestlers all obsessed with wrestling means we all have the same goals and expectations for ourselves, which makes all of us get better.”

Heinl expects all of his starters to qualify for the WPIAL tournament. He would be satisfied if six wrestlers qualified for the PIAA competition.

Senior Bradley Fadeley won 21 of 39 matches in 2017. Junior Austin Dohl grew up wrestling in Germany but has adapted well to folkstyle wrestling, and junior Austin Francic has been the team’s most improved wrestler in the offseason.

Newcomers include freshmen Archer Eubanks and Justin Richie.

“They should have an immediate impact,” Heinl said. “I don’t know if they’ll do as well as Conner as freshmen, but they should do well for us. They’ll be fun to watch this year.”

The Quakers also welcomed Fox Chapel transfers Donovan and Patrick Cutchember, who has won state titles as a youth wrestler.

With more returning wrestlers like Paige Lenhardt, one of the top female wrestlers in Pennsylvania, it’s the most well-rounded team Quaker Valley has had, according to Kazalas.

“This is definitely the first year we’re definitely going to put out a full lineup,” Kazalas said. “Everyone will be ready to compete. We’re in a really good position, and this will be our best season so far. We don’t want to go in hoping to have a good match. We want to go into matches wanting to win and win big.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.

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