Plum wrestling hoping to solidify younger lineup
Plum is coming off one of its most successful wrestling seasons in recent years.
The Mustangs went undefeated in section matches, qualified for the WPIAL team playoffs for the first time since 2006 and sent seven wrestlers to the WPIAL individual championships.
Heavyweight Stephen Turchick capped it off by becoming the first Plum wrestler to make states since 2011.
Now, after the graduation of nine seniors — including six starters — Plum faces a bit of a rebuilding season. Coach Mike Supak is counting on a promising group of sophomores to step up and fill spots in his lineup.
“We’re a pretty young team,” Supak said. “We’ve got a good group of 10th graders coming up, and they need to be developed. I’d like to see where we’re at by the end of the season. Right now, they’re working hard and trying to get better, and I like what I see in the (wrestling) room.”
Plum may also get a boost from the return of a pair of seniors who missed time with injuries last season — Ronny Amato (132 pounds) and Zach Martin (152 or 160). Martin was a WPIAL qualifier as a sophomore.
The Mustangs return seven starters, led by senior Nate Turchick, a two-time WPIAL qualifier and the Section 3-AAA runner-up at 195 pounds who went 32-6 as a junior. Also coming back is another two-time WPIAL qualifier, junior Tommy Zummo, who was 29-7 and placed second in the section at 126 pounds.
“Zummo and Nate are creeping up on 100 wins,” Supak said. “So both of those guys are ones you’re going to want to watch.”
Another Plum wrestler to keep an eye on is sophomore Dom Davido, the team’s other returning WPIAL qualifier. He placed fourth in the section at 120 pounds and finished his freshman season with a record of 28-14.
Supak also has high expectations for junior 106-pounder Anthony DiNinno, who was 28-9 as a sophomore.
“He qualified for the national team this past spring, and he’s had a lot of experience since the end of last year,” Supak said. “So I think he’s ready to make a statement this year.”
The other returning starters for the Mustangs are seniors Anthony Borrasso (113 pounds) and Nick Meyers (138) and junior Nathan Hoff (220).
Another wrestler who may challenge for a starting spot in the upper weight classes is senior Billy Bob Baird.
“The guys coming back have been working hard all year. We had several guys doing freestyle and Greco,” said Supak. “Even the guys who were in multiple sports were doing some extra things here and there to try to get a little bit better.”
Sophomores who could make an impact include Dennis Newton and Sean Baird (106 or 113 pounds); Antonio Williams and Dom Hodil (145 or 152); Justin Bartley (160 or 170); and Keyshawn Smith and Brian McCloskey (195 or 220).
“All those guys have pretty good opportunities to get in the lineup, even if they’re not the straight starter, to share time,” Supak said.
In Section 3-AAA, Plum is in the sub-section that includes Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Hills and Shaler. Supak expects a competitive race.
“Fox Chapel has most of their team coming back, and Hampton had a young team that’s pretty much all still there this year,” he said. “Shaler had very good lightweights. They didn’t really have a lot of upper weights, but from what I understand, they have more upper weights this year.
“It’s going to be tough in the section to qualify for the playoffs.”
Plum opens up with the Eastern Area tournament Dec. 5 and 6 at Gateway High School. The Mustangs’ first section match is Dec. 10 at Hampton, and their first home section match is Dec. 18 against Fox Chapel.
The Mustangs are scheduled to compete in four other tournaments: the Penn Hills Duals (Dec. 20), West Mifflin (Dec. 29-30), Allegheny County (Jan. 16-17 at Fox Chapel) and Buckeye Local (Feb. 7 in Rayland, Ohio).
Team sectional tournaments are scheduled for Jan. 21. The WPIAL team championships will be held Jan. 26-31, and the PIAA team finals are Feb. 5-7 in Hershey.
Individual section tournaments will be held Feb. 21, with the Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Regional tournament following on Feb. 26-28.
The PIAA individual finals are March 5-7 in Hershey.
Dave Schrecengost is a freelance writer.