Kiski Area junior heavyweight Isaac Reid came closer than anyone else to extending the Alle-Kiski Valley’s streak of years with at least one PIAA individual wrestling champion.
Not since 2010 has the Valley News Dispatch’s coverage area lacked a PIAA first-place finisher. That wealth of winners made the end-of-season area recognition a fairly straightforward exercise.
If not for one archnemesis, Reid’s resume would have closely resembled that of recent champs from the area. Five of Reid’s six losses, including a 5-3 setback in the PIAA Class AAA final, came against Canon-McMillan senior Brendan Furman — Reid beat Furman, 3-2, in a Dec. 22 dual meet.
Remove Furman from the equation, and Reid likely finishes his season with just one loss and potentially three more titles — PIAA, WPIAL and possibly even Powerade Christmas Tournament, where Furman won their matchup, 5-3, in the semifinals.
But even with the blemishes against Furman, Reid still pieced together a stunning season performance. He won titles at the Eastern Area Invitational and Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament and took third in Powerade. Each of his five losses to Furman boiled down to three points or fewer. And his only other loss this season came against Bethlehem Catholic senior Niko Camacho, who placed fifth in the PIAA.
The quality of the WPIAL’s Class AAA heavyweights gave Reid’s success even more significance. Each of the top four spots on the medal stand at states went to WPIAL wrestlers. Reid defeated PIAA third-place finisher Roman Macek of Montour twice this season, and he pinned PIAA fourth-place finisher Gerald Brown of West Mifflin in the Eastern Area Invitational.
For his achievements, Reid is the Valley News Dispatch’s 2017 Wrestler of the Year.
What do you tell yourself when you accomplish this much but one opponent continually stands in your way?
You’ve got to learn from your defeats. Those are what motivate you. If I would’ve won states, I don’t know if I’d be as motivated for next year. Now I have a lot of motivation, because I didn’t completely accomplish the goal yet.
So you already see the positives in how this season ended?
I’m going to put a lot of work in. I already feel confident for next year. I’m already there at the top, and with my work ethic this offseason, I feel I’m just going to blow people out of the water. That’s what I’m hoping for.
You spoke at length during the PIAA tournament about the power of positive thinking. When and why did you take that philosophy so seriously?
I actually had a football game (Kiski Area’s home opener against Plum on Sept. 2), and I don’t know why, but I kept thinking as a defensive tackle that I was going to get an interception. I just kept thinking it every time I went out. I ended up getting a pick-six, and I was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s what made me really believe in it. Your mind is so powerful. It’s crazy. … If you think like a loser, sorry, you’re going to be a loser. But if you just think of good things, and you put in the work, the sky is the limit.
During the Parade of Champions that came before the WPIAL Class AAA finals, you walked out with a little bit of a swagger. A few Canon-McMillan fans might’ve even booed when they saw you. Did you hear that, and did it affect your mind state?
If you present yourself as confident, it plays a role in the mental advantage. Before I wrestle guys, this might sound weird, but I can tell when a guy has fear. He just breathes heavy and has that straight face. I like to have that smirk and be nice and loose, just ready to go. How you feel is how you look, so I play up that, too.
Are you looking forward to a season without Furman?
It feels good getting him out of here. … He’s big. He’s a full 287. Has good hips. He moves well, too.
Burrell, Jr., 120
2016-17 record: 30-16
The Burrell junior took home a title at the Thomas Chevrolet Bedford tournament and also advanced to the PIAA Class AA tournament for a second straight season.
Kiski Area, Sr., 145
2016-17 record: 43-7
Blumer reached the WPIAL, Section 1-AAA and WCCA finals while stuck in the same weight class as nationally-ranked Hempfield senior Jarod Verkleeren. He also placed fifth at the Powerade tournament.
Highlands, Sr., 152
2016-17 record: 23-11
Clark anchored a young Golden Rams lineup during trying times as its top grappler and only WPIAL Class AAA tournament qualifier. He finished fourth in Section 3-AAA.
Kiski Area, So., 138
2016-17 record: 38-11
Connor followed a strong freshman campaign with even greater success, including a berth in the PIAA Class AAA tournament, a WCCA finals appearance and an Eastern Area Invitational title.
Burrell, So., 113
2016-17 record: 33-16
Gaul punched his ticket to the PIAA Class AA tournament with a top-six finish in the Southwest Region and also placed in the WCCA and Thomas Chevrolet Bedford tournaments.
Burrell, Sr., 126
2016-17 record: 34-15
Jeffrey put together the best individual postseason of his career by placing second in the WPIAL and PIAA Southwest Class AA Region but had his PIAA tournament appearance ruined by a skin condition.
Valley, Fr., 106
2016-17 record: 24-16
Lasko made exponential improvements to become a WPIAL Class AA finalist and surpass the 20-win mark one season after winning just one junior high match.
Kiski Area, Jr., 126
2016-17 record: 40-10
Levett refused to run away from phenom Spencer Lee and consequently accepted silver in the WCCA tournament, in Section 1-AAA and in the WPIAL before taking sixth in PIAA Class AAA.
Burrell, Sr., 182
2016-17 record: 32-11
Marra overcame a shoulder injury that caused him to miss a month and placed seventh at the PIAA Class AA tournament, third in the Southwest Region and second at the WPIAL tournament.
Kiski Area, So., 106
2016-17 record: 46-4
Miller relied on resilience to place third in the PIAA and WPIAL Class AAA. He won a WCCA title and reached the Powerade Christmas Tournament final.
Valley, So., 285
2016-17 record: 34-6
Schuffert specialized in speedy pins during a season in which he reached the WPIAL Class AA finals and placed third at the WCCA tournament and Southmoreland Holiday Classic.
Kiski Area, Sr., 120
2016-17 record: 32-13
Siszka needed just one more win to qualify for the PIAA Class AAA tournament. His podium performances include a third-place finish at the WCCA tournament.
Kiski Area, Sr., 220
2016-17 record: 38-7
The elder half of an imposing brother tandem, Starr pinned his way to a Section 1-AAA title. He had six pins during Kiski Area’s 12 team postseason matches. Danny Starr, a junior 195-pounder, went 35-10.
Burrell, Fr., 106
2016-17 record: 35-13
Valovchik claimed a WPIAL Class AA championship during a strong second half of a season that also included six pins and two major decisions in Burrell’s nine-match team playoffs.