Kiski Area finishes strong in PIAA 1st round win
HERSHEY — If there is one thing that the Kiski Area wrestling team does well, is finish off an opponent.
The Cavaliers (20-0) did it against Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL Class AAA championship Saturday and also Thursday in their 52-11 rout of District 3’s Central Dauphin in the opening round of the PIAA team tournament at Giant Center.
Central Dauphin trailed 16-7 after six bouts, but that’s when Kiski Area started applying the knockout punch.
Kiski won seven of the final eight bouts, including pins from Cam Connor (138 pounds), Joey Blumer (145), Brad Nagy (170), Danny Starr (195) and Tommy Starr (220).
“We knew there would be some good matches, but our wrestlers are so focused right now, and we’re looking forward to getting started,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said.
Kiski Area faces returning champion Bethlehem Catholic in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Friday. Bethlehem Catholic defeated Central Mountain, 49-12.
One of the biggest wins for Kiski came from junior Noah Levett, who is ranked No. 6 in the state. He defeated No. 3 Jake Cherry, 4-2, in overtime. Cherry defeated Levett in the 2015 state tournament.
“That was a great match, and we knew it was going to be,” Heater said. “I thought Noah was good on his feet and super at finishing shots. He started in great position.
“It was a confidence builder for the team and Noah. That win put some excitement on the bench.”
Levett was able to secure the takedown in a scramble midway through the first overtime despite a complaint from Central Dauphin coach Jeff Sweigard.
“It was a big win for me,” Levett said. “Jake is a pretty good wrestler. He beat on me my freshman year. Getting the win helped my team win.”
Kiski Area raced out to a 13-0 lead as heavyweight Isaac Reid picked up a major win, Darren Miller (106) received a forfeit and Jared Curcio (113) edged Tye Weathersby, 4-3.
“I thought that Jack (Blumer) did a great job hanging with Andrew Wert until late,” Heater said. “That was a boost.”
Connor’s and (Joey) Blumer’s pins got the things going.
“When you can avoid bonus and you can get bonus, that’s separates the team score.”
Levett said the team is excited about the opportunity to face Bethlehem Catholic.
“We’re pumped for the match,” Levett said. “This is the match that we want. We don’t run from competition. Becca is a good team, and we want to beat the best team in the state.”
Levett said the team is always looking for bonus points by going for falls.
“This is the best team I’ve been around,” Levett said. “We have a lot of fun. Everyone cares about the team. We’re pinners and we love to pin to get bonus points so we don’t have to worry about close matches. It’s great to have good teammates.”
Also in Class AAA, Jake Hinkson (145) and Eric Hong (160) had pins as North Allegheny advanced to the quarterfinals with a 45-12 victory against Father Judge.
Joe Doyle’s first-period pin of Zach Rohaley gave District 1 champion Council Rock South a 30-29 win over WPIAL runner-up Canon-McMillan.
Heavyweight Brendan Furman had Canon-McMillan’s only pin of the match, while Logan Macri (120) won with a technical fall, the 100th of his career.
Burrell has qualified for the PIAA Class AA team tournament 13 consecutive seasons.
The Bucs, who have won 11 straight WPIAL titles and 13 overall, have placed in the top three of the state four times, winning their only title in 2008.
If Burrell hopes to return home with another top-three trophy, then it can’t lose another match.
Burrell lost in the first round of the state tournament for the fourth time in the past six years Thursday at the Giant Center, falling to District 4 runner-up Line Mountain, 31-29.
The Bucs could only fill 12 of 14 weight classes and had to forfeit two bouts (126 pounds and heavyweight) which cost them a chance to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
Burrell coach Josh Shields said he was disappointed in the result, but proud of his team’s effort.
“We knew it would be tight,” Shields said. “I felt we left a few team points out on the mat in spots. We didn’t get them, and they did.”
Things started off well for Burrell. The Bucs strung together three consecutive wins to grab a 12-3 lead. Ethan Awes held on for a 7-6 win against Caleb Shaffer at 138 pounds to tie the team score at 3-3, and Daniel McCarthy followed with a 17-5 major decision against Wyatt Bingaman to push the Burrell lead to 7-3.
Then, Corey Christie kept it going at 152 with a 19-3 technical fall win against Chance Hackenburg.
A win by Austin Mele at 170 and a pin by Anthony Marra against Chris Koperna at 182 gave Burrell a 21-6 edge.
That’s when Line Mountain turned things around, getting a pin by Ethan Long at 195, a major decision win by Jaron Renn and the forfeit at heavyweight to grab a 22-21 lead.
“We haven’t had a heavyweight all year,” Shields said. “And we didn’t have anyone to put in at 126. It’s tough to win here when you forfeit twice.”
Burrell got major decision wins from Trent Valochik (106) and Bryan Gaul (113) for a 29-22 lead to set up the thrilling finish. The winner between Line Mountain senior Cole Hauck and Burrell junior Trent Bechtold at 120 would decide it. Hauck recorded a 7-2 win and the forfeit at 126 gave Line Mountain the win.
Burrell, which placed third in 2014, 2011 and 2005, dropped into the consolation round to face District 12 champion Bishop McDevitt (Wyncote) at 8 a.m.
Bishop McDevitt was beaten by Saucon Valley, 71-9. If Burrell wins, it wrestles again at 4 p.m.
“All I want the team to do is fight and to battle on Friday, and I know they will,” Shields said. “It wasn’t for the lack of effort that we lost. The road gets a little tougher.”
Also in Class AA, Caleb Holderbaum’s pin at 106 pounds helped District 5 champion Chestnut Ridge avoid an upset in the first round with a 33-28 win over Freedom.
Freedom’s Thomas Young was leading 3-2 when Holderbaum caught him on his back for the pin. Freedom got pins from Bryson Miller at 195 and heavyweight Evan Sweesey, who earned the 100th win of his career.