Kiski Area wrestlers chasing PIAA gold
Heavyweight is a quirky weight class. It often presents awkward and uneven matches with differing styles and sometimes-clunky moves by the big boys.
“You might have a kid go against someone who's 5-6, 250 pounds, or somebody who's 6-11,” Kiski Area coach Chuck Tursky said candidly. “Or, someone who's 70 pounds heavier.”
Peculiarities aside, someone will win the 285-pound championship Saturday evening in Hershey when the PIAA Class AAA championships wind down at Giant Center.
The Triple-A heavyweight final could be the last match of the event.
Kiski Area junior Shane Kuhn hopes he's the one wearing the gold medal when the tournament ends.
Kuhn won his first WPIAL title Saturday, edging Canon-McMillan's Angelo Broglia, 3-1, in the finals.
“It was good to win (a WPIAL title), but I have to move past that now,” said Kuhn, who is drawing Division I college attention in wrestling and football. “It's about one match at a time at states.”
Kuhn placed fourth in the state bracket as a sophomore, but believes experience and preparation could make him a contender among the state's best.
“I am more experienced; I have more technique and strength,” Kuhn said. “All-around, I'm a year better and older. It would be incredible to win a state title. But it's not going to be easy. There are a lot of tough kids. If I don't win, I want to make sure I do better than last year.”
At 38-0, Kuhn is the WPIAL's only undefeated wrestler heading into the PIAA tournament.
“He's wrestled a lot of good competition,” Tursky said. “But like I preached to Matt (McCutcheon) and Shane, you have to focus in this time of year. There are a lot of good guys out there. You're down to the top 16.”
Kiski Area senior 195-pounder Matt McCutcheon, meantime, became the Cavaliers' first PIAA champ last season and hopes to add another gold.
He enters the tournament off a stinger — his first defeat, a 3-1 overtime loss to Hampton's Jake Hart in the WPIAL finals.
“I wasn't preparing right,” said McCutcheon (34-1). “(Hart) slowed it down against me. I didn't wrestle my style.
“I need to go out and wrestle my style. I have to stop trying to keep the match close and stop wrestling not to lose. I'd love to get a rematch (with Hart). But I can't think about that. I have to worry about the match in front of me.”
Tursky knows McCutcheon would love a rematch with Hart. The coach thinks the defeat could make McCutcheon “that wrestler nobody wants to face.”
“He'll use it for motivation,” Tursky said. “Matt is the total package. He's a great competitor. He is a very mature young man. Sometimes, when a kid takes that first loss, he's not good for a week and a half. That won't be Matt. He'll be ready.”
McCutcheon knows he has a group of supporters in his corner. He said he's received pep talks from Tursky, Kiski Area assistant Chris Heater, Doug Joseph, and Bones Wrestling Coach Jodi Strittmatter, whom McCutcheon drove to see in Johnstown after Monday's practice at Kiski Area.
Now, he'll take the tips and weave them into a quilt of confidence.
“They all gave me bits and pieces of advice,” McCutcheon said. “I am going to put it all together.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.