Unlike other wrestling teams, Kiski Area doesn’t have to travel several hours to find quality competition. There’s plenty of it in the Cavaliers’ section.
Section 1-AAA rivals Franklin Regional and Latrobe took first and second place, respectively, in the WPIAL and PIAA last season. And Section 1 wrestlers combined to win eight WPIAL and five PIAA individual championships.
This season, Kiski is hoping to knock their section competitors off their pedestal.
“We like having such a tough section,” junior 195-pounder Chad Kuhn said. “If you want to be one of the top schools, you want to wrestle the top schools. We get better every year by having such a tough section and WPIAL.”
Kiski saw last season how difficult it can be to emerge amid quality competition. The Cavaliers finished 16-3 and reached the WPIAL Class AAA team quarterfinals before losing to North Allegheny, which finished fifth in the state. Kiski’s other defeats came against Franklin Regional and Latrobe.
“Most teams would say (the season) was successful,” senior 160-pounder Dakota Lange said. “But for us, we always want to get to states. I feel that’s when Kiski says it’s successful, when we make it to states.”
Shane Kuhn, the WPIAL individual champion at heavyweight, graduated after last season, as did fellow starters Jake Ardellitz, Ryan Hardaway and Mitch Nagy.
Junior Tyler Worthing, the WPIAL individual champion at 220 pounds last season, is awaiting medical clearance to wrestle. He said he hopes to return to in January.
Kiski returns WPIAL qualifiers in Chad Kuhn, Lange, junior 182-pounder Alex Delp and sophomore 120-pounder Joe Blumer. Seniors Vaughn Curcio, at 138 pounds, and Garrett Fitzsimmons, at 152, are also expected to be team leaders.
“Some of our younger guys are matured,” coach Chuck Tursky said. “There were a couple matches (last season) where we had nine or 10 ninth- and 10th-graders. I feel pretty good about the guys that are in there. Almost any weight that you go against, our guys are scrappy and will battle you. That’s what you want.”
Kiski also could start some freshmen and sophomores new to varsity action.
“Everybody wants to get in on the action,” Curcio said. “Everybody wants their shot. I think they definitely deserve it. They work hard.”
The Cavaliers will attempt to win their sixth straight title at the Eastern Area Invitational this weekend. But the team’s bigger goals loom toward February, when Kiski hopes to qualify for the PIAA playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“The first half of the season really gets all the butterflies out,” Fitzsimmons said. “It gets you ready for (the end of the season). There’s nothing really practices do. It’s just the experience of varsity matches you get up until the peak of the season.”
Other Alle-Kiski Valley storylines this season include:
• Plum made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2006 last season but faces the possibility of a rebuilding season after losing nine seniors, including six starters. Two-time WPIAL qualifiers Nate Turchick and Tommy Zummo will try to help the Mustangs get back to the playoffs.
• Fox Chapel also reached the WPIAL playoffs last season and will look to underclassmen Darius Booker and Mike Mahon.
• New Knoch coach Steve Carney, a Kiski graduate, will try to lead the Knights to a better 2014-15 season after they won just one match last season.