Five Kiski Area wrestlers qualify for WPIAL Class AAA semifinals
Isaac Reid became a “mad man” after he lost to Canon-McMillan’s Brendan Furman in the PIAA Class AAA team wrestling championships last month.
The 5-3 defeat drove Kiski Area’s junior heavyweight to ramp up his training to twice a day as he focused on improving his conditioning, his shots, his footwork — actually, pretty much everything — with one goal in mind: individual WPIAL and PIAA titles.
“It just drives me insane,” Reid said. “I don’t really think about it in my off time, but when I’m training, it’s on my mind. It’s the only thing I can think about. That just drives me, just pushes me that extra step, that extra 10 minutes after practice when I’m already dead.”
Reid’s dream is alive as he advanced to the semifinals of the WPIAL Class AAA championships with a pair of pins on the first day of competition Friday at Canon-McMillan. The semifinals begin at noon Saturday.
A three-time semifinalist, Reid leads a pack of five Kiski Area wrestlers who made the semis and need one more victory to qualify for the PIAA individual championships March 9-11 in Hershey.
Senior Matt Siszka (120 pounds), junior Noah Levett (126), sophomore Cam Connor (138) and senior Joey Blumer (145) also advanced to the semifinals. All are seeking their first individual WPIAL title.
“(Advancing to) semis makes things a lot easier,” Siszka said. “You’re not a shoo-in for Hershey, but it just puts you in a lot better shape. I’ll be able to sleep a little better tonight being in the semis than if I would have dropped down to the (consolations) and had a tougher road.”
A dozen Kiski Area wrestlers qualified for the WPIAL individual championships, and all still have a chance to make it to the PIAA championships. Seven of the team’s wrestlers lost their quarterfinal matches to drop into the consolation bracket, where second-round matches begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
The Cavaliers, who won the WPIAL Class AAA team title last month, are more of an underdog in the individual championships. Siszka and Connor will face the top seeds in their brackets in Canon-McMillan’s Logan Macri and Hempfield’s Luke Kemerer, respectively. Both are rematches of bouts the Kiski Area pair lost earlier this season.
“They’re all capable of beating these guys,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “They’ve got to put their best matches out there and whatever happens, happens.”
A loss can be a powerful motivator but also an important teaching tool. Siszka advanced to the semifinals with a 7-0 decision over Pine-Richland’s Alex Salas, who scored a one-point victory over the Kiski Area senior earlier this season at the Powerade Christmas Tournament.
Siszka scrambled out of an early takedown attempt by Salas and scored one of his own, then controlled the rest of the match to record his 100th career victory.
“That win was big,” Siszka said. “That was redemption, plus the 100th win.”
Reid was on the mat for less than 90 seconds, pinning West Allegheny’s Erik Vadella in 44 seconds in the first round and getting a 37-second fall over North Hills’ Sean Bright in the quarterfinals.
“I just want it bad. I want it real bad,” said Reid, who will face Montour’s Roman Macek in the semifinals with a potential rematch with Furman looming in the finals. “Everybody wants it bad. Some people just aren’t willing to put in the work, and some are.”
Darren Miller (106), Jack Blumer (132), Nicholas Delp (152), Vinny Romano (170), Brad Nagy (182), Danny Starr (195) and Tom Starr (220) lost in their quarterfinal bouts and dropped to the consolation bracket. They need three victories to make it to states.
Miller’s loss was the most surprising. The sophomore entered the tournament as the top seed in his bracket but dropped a 6-2 decision to Hampton’s Tyler Kocak.
“He was in on six shots, and if he finishes one of those, it’s a completely different match,” Heater said. “That kid was really tough, had great defense, obviously, and caught (Miller) in a dump. It’s hard to come back from five points late in the match.
“(The wrestlers in the consolation bracket) just have to take them one at a time. You’ve got to wrestle every match because it’s do-or-die now … so you’ve got to put everything you have out there.”
All 12 of Kiski Area’s WPIAL qualifiers won their opening-round match, with Miller, Levett, Connor, Romano, Danny Starr and Reid getting pins.
Highlands senior Cameron Clark lost 8-3 in his pigtail-round match against Waynesburg Central’s Caleb Stephenson and did not advance further in the bracket.
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.