Kiski Area wrestlers eye rematches in WPIAL tournament
Kiski Area senior 145-pounder Joey Blumer lost sleep on a regular basis during two-plus seasons of his varsity wrestling career as he let musings about upcoming matches consume his thoughts.
As he readies for his final WPIAL Class AAA individual tournament, the senior hopes the possibility of rematches with two familiar rivals doesn't lead him down a path toward old, bad habits.
Count Blumer as one of several Cavaliers who enter the WPIAL championships, which begin at 11 a.m. Friday at Canon-McMillan High School and continue on Saturday, with potentially more knowledge than they need about front runners in their respective weight classes. A total of 12 wrestlers from Kiski Area qualified.
“This year, I've done a lot better (with controlling thoughts) than in the past couple years,” said Blumer, whose six losses this season include two setbacks to No. 1 seed Jarod Verkleeren of Hempfield and one to No. 2 seed Jake Hinkson of North Allegheny. “I don't lose sleep anymore. But I think about them. I should probably think about them a little less, but they're always in my mind.”
Junior 126-pounder Noah Levett, a No. 3 seed, is no stranger to Franklin Regional senior Spencer Lee, a three-time WPIAL and PIAA champion without a loss in his high school career — they met twice in the individual postseason a year ago and twice earlier this season, including in last Saturday's Section 1-AAA finals.
And sophomore 138-pounder Cam Connor, a No. 4 seed, hopes to earn a fourth shot at No. 1 seed and Hempfield junior Luke Kemerer, who won when they met the three previous times this season, including Saturday in the Section 1-AAA finals.
“It's fun to see where you're at when you're wrestling those good guys,” Connor said. “Just shows how you're improving, if you need to practice harder.”
“Fun” is a relative concept, of course. If results remain lopsided and familiarity continues to grow between two wrestlers, perspectives mature. Just ask Levett, who recognizes both the good and bad of his seemingly inevitable run-ins with Lee.
“Going into every tournament, I know if I have to wrestle Spencer, it'll probably be in the finals,” Levett said. “So if I end up wrestling him, that means I made the finals. That's kind of a motivation there in itself.”
Blumer, Levett and Connor's seedings suggested the WPIAL committee recognized the caliber of competition in Section 1-AAA at their respective weights and put them ahead of champions from other sections.
That's an approach coach Chris Heater finds agreeable — section championships should not guarantee top-four seeds, he said. But Heater also watched the WPIAL's more subjective style backfire for two of his team's four section title winners.
While sophomore 106-pounder Darren Miller grabbed the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL and junior 285-pounder Isaac Reid landed a No. 2 slot, brothers Danny and Tommy Starr both ended up outside the top four of their weight classes after winning gold on Saturday.
Danny Starr, a junior 195-pounder with a 32-8 record, received the No. 5 seed in the WPIAL.
Even more surprising, Tom Starr, a senior 220-pounder with a 37-5 record, garnered a No. 7 seed after pinning his way to a title in Section 1-AAA.
“Sometimes it's hard to understand the philosophy a little bit or why kids are where they're at,” Heater said.
But among the Cavaliers, the coach continued, perhaps none are wired better for such a situation than the Starrs, who share a take-on-all-comers attitude.
Blumer said he sometimes envies teammates who can resist the urge to research opponents. He welcomes reminders from Heater, another avid studier, to stop analyzing and just start attacking.
“Sometimes you can put a little too much stock into a name or credentials instead of just brawling for five or six minutes,” Heater said.
“I think the guys that can line up and just wrestle the man and not the name, they're better off.”