High school wrestling notebook: Fox Chapel savors early success
A rare losing season two years ago prepared the Fox Chapel wrestling team for what the Foxes hoped would be a strong 2014-15 season, and the results are in its favor so far.
Fox Chapel (7-1, 3-0) beat North Hills, 39-27, and is tied for the Section 3-AAA (B) lead with Hampton. The Foxes went 4-1 at the season-opening Hampton Dawg Duals, losing only to Class AAA No. 7 Hempfield, and they followed that performance up with section victories over Central Catholic (54-18) and Plum (43-21).
The Foxes started four or five freshmen in 2012-13, when the team finished 8-9, its first losing season in 12 years. That record improved to 14-4 in 2013-14, and most of the starters from that team returned.
“We expected to have a strong season based on the experience of the past,” coach Ron Frank said. “We had a few kids wrestling every day this summer. We’re working hard to improve, but our improvement is not unexpected.”
Junior Derrin Dietz (170) and freshman Zach Carcy (195) boast 7-0 records for the Foxes, with both claiming four pins. Junior Austin Pisano and senior Ian Moritz are both 6-1. Senior Tyler Heasley, who missed last season with an injury, is 4-3, with losses coming against nationally ranked wrestlers Vincenzo Joseph and Sam Krivus.
Frank said he expected a wide-open race for the section championship because the teams are close in ability.
“Our goal is to make every kid better each day,” he said. “If we move forward just a notch, then it’s a perfect day.”
Holiday tournament time
Holiday wrestling tournaments are here. Several local teams will compete in holiday tournaments over the next week.
Burrell and Kittanning will compete in the prestigious Powerade Christmas Tournament at Canon-McMillan.
Wrestling Report bills Powerade as the third-strongest high school wrestling tournament in the country and tops in Pennsylvania. The 48-team tournament includes squads from 11 states, including four state champions.
“It’s a great tournament,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said. “It gives our kids an opportunity to see kids that are not only the best kids in this area, this state, but in some cases, some of the top kids in the country.”
Kittanning’s Jacob Robb finished third at last season’s Powerade Tournament. Jason Nolf, a 2014 Kittanning graduate, won the 145-pound bracket.
Other local teams traveling to holiday tournaments include Fox Chapel (Conestoga Valley Holiday Wrestling Classic), Kiski Area (Manheim Central Xmas Tournament), Plum (West Mifflin Tournament), Riverview (Steve DeAugustino Classic) and Valley (Southmoreland Tournament).
The 500 club
Kiski Area’s Chuck Tursky, already the WPIAL’s winningest wrestling coach, is nearing another milestone.
The Cavaliers’ 29-27 nonsection win over Canon-McMillan on Monday night marked the 499th victory of Tursky’s career. His mark in 37 seasons at Burrell and Kiski is 499-133-2, including three WPIAL championships.
Kiski’s next dual match is Jan. 3 against Class AAA No. 1 Franklin Regional.
Back in action
After missing the first few weeks of the season while awaiting medical clearance, Kiski Area junior Tyler Worthing returned to the mat Monday night against Canon-McMillan.
The defending WPIAL champion at 220 pounds picked right up where he left off, using five takedowns to beat Jared Hladycz by a 10-5 decision.
Highlands health issues
The cold and flu bug bit the Highlands wrestling team before last weekend’s Penn Hills Duals. The Golden Rams were missing six starters for the tournament, where Highlands finished 0-5, including a tiebreaker criteria loss to Riverview.
Highlands is competing as a non-WPIAL team this season, with hopes of rejoining in 2015-16. The Golden Rams are 0-11, and using a roster mostly freshmen and sophomores.
Unlike past seasons, however, Highlands isn’t struggling with numbers: The team has 29 wrestlers and typically is able to fill all but one lineup slot.
“We’ve had a lot more progress than I expected from a bunch of first-year wrestlers,” coach Grant Walters said. “We’ve got to teach them to crawl before we walk. Baby steps. There’s been a lot of improvement. We’ve got good coaches in there, good support from the school and parents, so we’re hoping to change it more and more as we get into the season.”