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Quaker Valley wrestling team aims for big things in future | TribLIVE.com
High School Wrestling

Quaker Valley wrestling team aims for big things in future

Shawn Annarelli
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Quaker Valley’s JohnRocco Kazalas defeats Mt Lebanon’s Jackson Gray 6-3 in the 145lbs bout during the ACWT Saturday Jan. 19, 2019 at Fox Chapel Area High School.
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
North Hill’s Sam Hillegas takes down Quaker Valley’s Conner Redinger before pinning him in the 132lbs bout during the ACWT Saturday Jan. 19, 2019 at Fox Chapel Area High School.

JohnRocco Kazalas has set the standard for success in Quaker Valley’s 3-year-old wrestling program, but the team’s youngest athletes might raise the bar in time.

Wrestlers such as sophomore Conner Redinger and freshman Patrick Cutchember seem poised to rewrite the record books long after Kazalas finishes his high school career.

Kazalas won his second straight Allegheny County Tournament championship and led the Quakers to seventh place out of 37 teams Jan. 19. It was a five-spot improvement from last season.

Quaker Valley coach Mike Heinl wished his team hadn’t been plagued with injuries.

“Can you imagine if we had Geoff Magin and Austin Dohl in the lineup with everyone else?” Heinl said. “We’d have made an even greater run.”

Redinger won at 106 pounds last season but was pinned at 132 to place second this season. Cutchember lost 10-6 in the 160 finals, which made it the first time Quaker Valley had at least three wrestlers in the last round.

“I’ve noticed who Patrick likes to practice with,” Heinl said. “Guess who? JohnRocco. They push one another and work hard. I’m happy for him. He deserves it. He’s a fun wrestler to watch. He leads us with 13 pins. He’s young and excited to do sections and WPIALs, and he wants to go to Hershey.”

Cutchember also called Redinger and senior Geoff Magin key contributors to his success.

The drills against Kazalas, Redinger and Magin — each has qualified for PIAA competition in previous seasons — have paid off.

“I try to go 100 percent in practice and in matches,” Cutchember said. “Even if I’m down by a lot of points, I’ll try everything to have a big comeback to get a win. I feel like I can pull anything out. Even if I’m losing, I just keep going with the mindset that I can find a way to win every time.”

Freshmen Archer Eubanks, Mason Diemert and Justin Richey were also praised by Heinl, who expects Richey to develop into a leader.

Richey lost to Shaler’s Ryan Sullivan, the defending PIAA champion at 126 pounds, at the Allegheny County Tournament.

“I told Justin I’d lean on him next year and the year after,” Heinl said. “He’s probably one of the top three technical wrestlers on our team. He knows all the right moves, and he’s wrestling at 120 pounds, which he isn’t built for yet. He’s knowledgeable, and so I think he’ll be special in the next few years.”

Kazalas, Magin, Redinger and Cutchember could have deep postseason runs this season, but the program’s youngest wrestlers might earn more than individual accolades in the future.

“I think (the freshmen class) is not only our biggest, but maybe our most talented one,” Kazalas said. “To be state champions is the goal for the team, and I know we might not get that this year. I’m just being realistic, but that’s definitely a goal I could see the coaches having for our underclassmen when they’re upperclassmen.”

Kazalas is right. Heinl hopes the underclassmen follow in his top wrestler’s footsteps and collectively take the program a few steps further.

The Allegheny County Tournament showed the team is headed in the right direction.

“I think we can compete against anyone,” Heinl said. “We’re excited for sections, but we’re not satisfied with a section championship or a county championship. We want to build a state championship program, and until we do, I guess we won’t be satisfied.”

Section tournament

Last Wednesday, the Quakers captured their first Section 2-AA title. Redinger, Gino Angeletti, Kazalas and Donovan Cutchember had pins as No. 8-ranked Quaker Valley (12-5) defeated Keystone Oaks, 43-33, in the finals. The Quakers defeated No. 2-ranked Freedom (6-2), 36-35, in the semifinal round.

Quaker Valley earned the No. 3 seed for the WPIAL Class AA tournament. They were scheduled to host Valley in the opening round Wednesday, after deadline for this edition.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.