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Burrell hires new boys basketball, wrestling coaches

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Just after the conclusion of successful winter seasons, Burrell's boys basketball and wrestling teams began to search for coaching successors.

The names of the men who will fill those vacancies emerged at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

Shawn Bennis and Josh Shields received approval to lead boys basketball and wrestling, respectively. Both inherit teams that made WPIAL championship game appearances last season.

Bennis, a former coach at Highlands and Kiski Area, will take over a program that finished second in WPIAL Class AA. He replaces Rob Niederberger, who coached three seasons and stepped down because of travel demands.

“I just felt this was a good fit with me knowing a lot of younger kids and some of the older kids,” said Bennis, 43, who lives in the Burrell district and has a daughter, Maisy, in fourth grade and a son, Macky, in first.

Bennis went 28-41 in three seasons at Kiski Area. When a position opened at Highlands, he returned to his alma mater, which he led for three seasons and accumulated a record of 38-33. He then stepped down to spend more time with his family.

“Ultimately, they were the ones who said, ‘You need to get back into it, because honestly, you're driving us crazy,' ” Bennis said.

Shields' bond with Burrell runs deep.

“I'm really fortunate to get to serve as coach at Burrell. I didn't think (the opportunity) would come this quickly,” said Shields, 25, a 2006 Burrell graduate who won 147 bouts in his high school career and made the PIAA finals as a senior.

He wrestled at Mercyhurst, where he became a three-time All-American. He won a NCAA Division II title as a sophomore and placed second as a junior.

Last season, he became a Burrell assistant under Bud Sines, who in two seasons as coach led the Bucs to two more WPIAL Class AA team titles. Sines resigned to rejoin his wife, who accepted a job in the Atlanta area.

Burrell has won seven WPIAL team championships in a row under three different coaches.

“Pressure, it brings the best out of me,” Shields said. “I look forward to it.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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