Canon-Mac wrestlers turn focus to individual goals
That Canon-McMillan swept to the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA team wrestling championships earlier this month wasn't much of a surprise.
After all, the Big Macs were the defending champions of both — and had actually won the previous three WPIAL titles — so seeing the team advance deep both tournaments is not an unfamiliar recent phenomenon.
Having a team short-handed due to injury win a state title? That's much more noteworthy.
The Big Macs overcame the absence of junior Solomon Chishko and senior Malachi Krenzelak to become the first team to win four consecutive WPIAL Class AAA team championships and the first WPIAL school to win two PIAA titles.
“My hat goes off to all the kids who stepped up through some adversity we had this year with some injuries and some other team issues,” Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary said. “But with the kids, all the chemistry is there at the right time, and we're blessed to lead such a fine group.
“What an honor to be part of this, and I can't stress how proud I am of the kids and their commitment to the sport and to the entire team.”
The wrestling team's efforts vaulted Canon-McMillan into third place in the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award Class AAAA standings.
The program will look to add to its burgeoning collection of accolades in the coming weeks. Individual section tournaments across the WPIAL begin this weekend, with the top finishers qualifying for the WPIAL/PIAA Southwest Regional tournament. The top three in that competition qualify for the PIAA championships March 7-9 at Giant Center in Hershey.
That's the same venue in which Canon-McMillan completed the team portion of the season with a dramatic 34-31 victory against Central Dauphin on Feb. 9. Junior Brendon Price clinched the victory with a win in the 106-pound bout that concluded the match.
“Winning a state title formed a special bond between the team and the coaching staff that will last forever,” Mary said. “To be part of a state championship team and then have the privilege to coach one is beyond special.”
Price is among a bevy of Big Macs wrestlers with PIAA championships hopes. It won't be easy to match the WPIAL record of eight PIAA place-winners Canon-McMillan set last year — and there's a long way to go. But there's no shortage of Big Macs wrestlers who have the ability to achieve that.
Five already have proven so, winning a PIAA medal last year — Cody Wiercioch, Connor Schram, Dalton Macri, Alex Campbell and Chishko.
Wiercioch, a senior, is the reigning 170-pound state champion, 126-pound junior Schram was a finalist at 120 pounds in 2012, Macri took fourth at 113 and is now wrestling at 120 as a junior and Campbell is looking to improve on his fifth-place finish at 220 pounds last year as a junior.
Chishko was the PIAA bronze medalist at 138 pounds last year but has not competed this season due to an elbow injury. He was medically cleared this week, however, and Mary said he “has big goals” for the 145-pounder's postseason.
Other seniors who have known nothing but WPIAL team titles for Canon-McMillan include Sammy Minor, Steve LaFrance, Angelo Broglia, Nick Oberhaus and William Pihou.
“What a great run, to be a part of history,” Mary said.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.