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Carlynton’s Milko wrestles his way to runner-up spot at Allegheny County tourney | TribLIVE.com
High School Wrestling

Carlynton’s Milko wrestles his way to runner-up spot at Allegheny County tourney

Chuck Curti
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North Allegheny’s Jon Hoover pins Carlynton’s Collin Milko in the 170lbs bout during the ACWT Saturday Jan. 19, 2019 at Fox Chapel Area High School.

What the Carlynton wrestling team lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. At the recent Allegheny County tournament, the Cougars put four on the medal stand: Elias Ward (fifth, 120 pounds), Eddie Huehn (fourth, 126), Oleg Melnyk (fifth, 152) and Collin Milko (second, 170).

Milko’s effort was particularly satisfying. The sophomore is, coach Jesse Valentine said, beginning to come into his own as a wrestler.

Early in his high school career, Milko always was trying to go for the big move to score a lot of points right away — sometimes to his detriment. But Valentine said Milko’s approach is maturing.

“I call it starting to wrestle like a high schooler instead of junior high or youth,” Valentine said. “He’s starting to realize takedowns and escapes win matches.”

Milko said his style is push the pace and stay aggressive in every match. Reining in his desire to go for the big moves, he said, has taken some getting used to, but he is adapting. He also has worked on going into matches with varied game plans.

“I’ve definitely been trying to mix it up a little,” he said. “Last year, I kind of stuck to the same … almost like a script. I would try to do the same stuff in every match. Now, I try to hit what’s there and what’s available when I’m wrestling.”

At the Allegheny County tournament, Milko dispatched his first opponent, Pine-Richland’s Zach Kost, with a pin 29 seconds into the second period. Likewise, his next opponent, Elizabeth Forward’s Charles Buchina, was the victim of a fall early in the second period.

The semifinal match against Moon’s Jamal Littlejohn proved to be a difficult test. There would be no pin for Milko, but he earned a 9-5 decision to advance to the title match.

He couldn’t finish off his quest for a gold medal, getting pinned in 37 seconds by North Allegheny senior Jon Hoover, ranked No. 2 by the Tribune-Review, in the final. At least — though it might be of little consolation — Milko lasted longer than any of Hoover’s other opponents.

“I fell a little short to a really good wrestler,” said Milko, who is tied with Ward and Huehn for the team lead in wins (20). “I went back in the (wrestling) room on Sunday evening and just kept working to try and get better so it wouldn’t be as bad next time.

“And maybe I can beat him next time.”

With the season winding into playoff time, Milko and the Cougars have turned their attention toward the WPIAL championships. Valentine said he believes each of the four who placed at the county tournament has a shot to earn a place on the podium in the WPIAL individual tournament.

He also is hopeful for freshman Bryce Rodriguez, who tore his ACL while competing over the summer but is close to returning. Valentine pointed toward the Montour Duals the weekend of Feb. 2 as Rodriguez’s probable return.

For his part, Milko is focused on having a strong showing at the WPIAL competition.

“My one big goal for this year would be to make it to states and, hopefully, place,” he said. “But for sure to make it there. Last year, I fell a little short. I just want to get there this year and just be able to make it.”

Chartiers Valley had five wrestlers earn medals at the county tournament: Chris Beatty (seventh, 126), Cody Trout (sixth, 132), Zach Macy (second, 138), Murat Zaynullaev (fourth, 170) and Josh Sarasnick (eighth, 195).

Macy lost a heart-breaker in the championship match as Pine-Richland’s Nate Lukez edged him 6-5. Macy had pinned each of his previous four opponents in the tournament, including a 14-second fall over Montour’s Henry Orlandini in his opening match.

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at [email protected] or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.