With emergence of Ryan Weinzen, John Altieri, Norwin wrestling wins triple crown

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 6:19 PM


Norwin did something at the 67th annual Westmoreland County Coaches’ Association wrestling tournament that it hadn’t done since 1975. The Knights crowned three champions in the same season.

While Kiski Area and Hempfield drew much of the attention, the Knights ended up with a strong showing when seniors Kurtis Phipps (126) and Ryan Weinzen (182) and junior John Altieri (138) claimed titles.

The last trio to win county medals was Mike Millberg (105), Bill Zoller (126) and Rick Svec (145).

Norwin finished third in the team race with 178 points. Other placewinners were Chase Kranitz (152) in second, Clayton Morris (195) and Conner Henning (113) in fourth, and Frankie Gill (160), Colton Minerva (132) and Luke Passarelli (120) in sixth.

Phipps won his second county title by defeating Franklin Regional sophomore Finn Solomon with a defensive pin. The match was scoreless when Phipps recorded the fall.

And while Phipps won his second title, Weinzen and Altieri were winning their first.

Both Weinzen and Altieri have big goals this season. They’d like to join Phipps in Hershey in March. Phipps is a two-time PIAA Class AAA runner-up.

Weinzen defeated Kiski Area junior Jared Curcio, 8-4, in the finals. It was the third time this season that Weinzen beat Curcio.

After competing at 220 pounds in 2018-19, Weinzen dropped to 182, a weight he feels is good for him.

“During my sophomore season, I wrestled at 170 and I got hurt and gained weight,” Weinzen said. “At the end of last season, I decided to drop back to a more natural weight for me.”

He competed at 195 pounds in the summer and continued to lose weight.

“At first, it was hard to lose weight,” Weinzen said. “I wrestled 197 at Disney and now it’s a lot easier to control my weight. I’m still as strong as I was at 220, but I’m a lot faster.”

He is No. 3 in the Tribune-Review rankings behind returning PIAA champion Gerrit Nijenhuis of Canon-McMillan and Donovan McMillon of Peters Township.

Weinzen (17-3) said there are a bunch of good wrestlers at his weight in the WPIAL and the state. His goal is to place at the PIAA meet, hopefully making the state finals.

“I just have to fine tune things in every position,” Weinzen said. “There aren’t a lot of things I can change.”

During the county tournament, Weinzen admits he didn’t wrestle his best. He was fighting an illness.

Altieri (17-4) won three matches in taking the title. He defeated Mt. Pleasant’s Noah Gnibus, 4-0, in the finals.

He said the quick start of the season at the Hampton Duals has helped him and getting sixth at Powerade was a positive step.

“Winning my first county title feels pretty good,” Altieri said. “I knew wrestling Gnibus would be a battle. I had to move him and I got it done.

“This year I’m focused on training smarter and harder. Last year, I just worked hard. Now I’m working on different things and I’m getting better.”

Altieri and Weinzen both said DeAugustine and his coaching staff have changed the culture at Norwin and is making everyone better.

“It’s fun,” Altieri said. “We’re working a lot harder and getting better every day.”

DeAugustine said having three county champions is huge for the program.

“It means a lot to the program,” DeAugustine said. “First time since 1975, and hopefully it will show the younger guys that we can produce county champions. It’s a positive.”

As for Weinzen and Altieri, he’s seen them improve on a daily basis.

“Their work ethic is a lot better,” DeAugustine said. “They’re working towards improving instead of working out crazily. They are constantly looking for ways to improve, which is good. Sometimes they get overshadowed by Kurtis.”

If they continue to work hard, DeAugustine said he feels they’ll achieve their goals.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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