Quaker Valley wrestling continues upward trend after WPIAL team tournament run

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Sunday, February 14, 2021 | 9:01 AM


When the Quaker Valley wrestling team faced off with Mt. Pleasant on Jan. 23 at the Hampton Dawg Duals, they came away with a 42-21 loss after only winning four contested matches.

So when the Quakers were matched up with the Vikings in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals on Feb. 10, some may have counted the young program out without even giving them a chance.

The Quakers knew what they were capable of, though.

“I told them all the way out here on the bus today that I believed in them,” Quaker Valley coach Mike Heinl said. “Anybody that wasn’t on that bus didn’t think we had a chance, but they believed in themselves and they went out and wrestled hard.”

Quaker Valley was two wins away from punching their ticket to the WPIAL finals for the first time in program history. But their first obstacle was the Vikings, and they overcame them in a big way.

After falling behind 14-0 in the first three matches, the Quakers reeled off four straight pins. Dom Floro started the streak at 152 pounds, then Justin Richey followed suit with a pin in 1 minute, 6 seconds. The momentum really swung when Conner Redinger, who had only wrestled three matches this season heading into the matchup, pinned WPIAL Class AA No. 3 Noah Gnibus in 1:15.

“Redinger goes out and locks in his cradle and sticks him, and you could see the momentum change,” Heinl said. “We just built off of it, and I’ll be honest with you, for our young program to respond the way it did tonight, it’s starting to show what we’ve been working on.”

Over the past five years, the Quakers have been building up their program slowly but surely, and they’ve recently started to have success. Their victory over the Vikings sent the Quakers to the semifinals for the third season in a row. They’ve also won their section the past three seasons.

They’ve been building it the right way, and Heinl has been happy with the success they’ve had.

“We’ve been trying to build a program like Burrell’s,” Heinl said. “We don’t like losing, so we want to compete against them and it’s been a lot of fun. These kids that I have the pleasure of coaching are phenomenal. They are great young men, well behaved, I have no issues, and they come into practice and go to work. They know what we want, and we want to win.”

Unfortunately for the Quakers, they ran into the Bucs in the semifinals the last two years. After losing to the Bucs 57-15 in the semis last year, the Quakers showed their growth in this year’s semifinals.

With four straight victories, including three pins, between 189 and 106 pounds, the Quakers had the Bucs on the ropes and held a 27-22 lead with four matches to go.

The Bucs have won 14 straight WPIAL championships for a reason, and they battled back to win the final four weight classes in convincing fashion with two pins, a decision and a major decision.

“Nobody gave us a shot to compete against Mt. Pleasant, but we had confidence coming in here that we could compete against Mt. Pleasant and Burrell and we wanted the shot at Burrell. I mean, everybody does,” Heinl said. “I’m really happy with how our team performed. We had a couple of close matches, and it was a great night for us.”

The Quakers know they have work to do, but with three straight WPIAL semifinal appearances, they are trending in the right direction.

“It’s been a fun ride, and this is probably the first time I have zero stress with these kids,” Heinl said. “Before I was always putting out fires, but it’s all fun now. We go to practice and we work. It’s been enjoyable, and I wish things would’ve worked out differently, but when you wrestle Burrell, you’re going to get exactly what you get.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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