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Canon-McMillan wrestlers chasing fourth straight WPIAL title

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Canon-McMillan's Conner Schram (left) works out with Dalton Macri on Thursday Nov. 29, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Canon-McMillan's Conner Schram (left) works out with Dalton Macri on Thursday Nov. 29, 2012.
Christopher Horner - Canon-McMillan wrestler Alex Campbell lifts teammate Angelo Broglia at practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner</em></div>Canon-McMillan wrestler Alex Campbell lifts teammate Angelo Broglia at practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012.

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Class AAA

Preseason Top 10

1. Canon-McMillan (26-0)

The defending PIAA and WPIAL champions return state titleist Cody Wiercioch and state runner-up Connor Schram. Once Solomon Chishko returns from an injury sustained in the Super 32, the Big Macs will be hard to beat.

2. Franklin Regional (14-4)

If any WPIAL team can challenge the Big Macs it could be the Panthers, a young team that is loaded with talent led by Michael Kemerer, Tyler Smith, Josh Maruca and Josh Shields.

3. Hampton (22-2)

The Talbots return 10 starters and are well-balanced. They are led by PIAA runner-up Jacob Hart, who recently signed with Edinboro.

4. Kiski Area (20-1)

As usual, Kiski Area will be in the mix for a section and WPIAL title. Penn State recruit Matt McCutcheon, a returning state champion, and PIAA fourth-place finisher Shane Kuhn will lead the Cavaliers.

5. Greensburg Salem (13-6)

The Golden Lions return a solid squad with the likes of Zach Voytek, Tyler Reinhart and Anthony Cable leading the way. The Lions will be without PIAA placewinner Tanner Hahn, who injured his knee during football season.

6. North Allegheny (20-6)

An extended football season will keep the Tigers from reaching their potential early, but they could be a tough team to beat in late January and early February. Look for Dom Forys and Alex DiCiantis to lead the Tigers.

7. Connellsville (16-5)

The traditionally strong Falcons shouldn't be overlooked. They have made the playoffs every year since the program's inception in the late 1970s. Ethan Kenney, a PIAA placewinner, is one of the teams top wrestlers.

8. Central Catholic (8-5)

The Vikings will be led by Vincenzo Joseph, a PIAA placewinner in 2011-12.

9. Butler (19-6)

The Golden Tornado returns 10 starters including PIAA qualifier Blake Caudill.

10. Hempfield (10-6)

The Spartans will be a tough team to match up against. They are led by Sam Krivus, Ricky Cavallo and Dom Nania.

Others to watch: Chartiers Valley (12-8), Peters Township (13-5), Belle Vernon (12-8), Latrobe (9-9), Norwin (9-8).

Class AAA

Section breakdown

Section 1A Franklin Regional and Kiski Area return numerous starters and will battle for first.

Section 1B Greensburg Salem and Hempfield are favorites, but Norwin and Latrobe return PIAA placewinners, as well.

Section 2A Connellsville is led by PIAA placewinner Ethan Kenney and Brandon Umbel.

Section 2B Peters Township, Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon will battle for top spot.

Section 3A North Allegheny and Butler return 10 starters.

Section 3B Hampton returns 10 starters, and Central Catholic nine.

Section 4A Canon-McMillan has five PIAA placewinners back.

Section 4B Hopewell has 11 starters back, while Montour, West A. and Ambridge are solid.


Preseason wrestler of the year

Cody Wiercioch

Canon-McMillan, Sr.

Pitt recruit is a two-time PIAA champion with a 123-4 record.

Others to watch

Michael Kemerer, F. Reg., So.

He was 39-1, won WPIAL title and was second in PIAA at 106.

Sam Krivus, Hempfield, So.

He went 45-4, was a WPIAL champ, third in the PIAA at 113.

Connor Schram, C-M, Sr.

Stanford recruit is 114-8, a two-time WPIAL champion and finished second in PIAA at 120.

Josh Maruca, F. Regional, So.

He went 36-7, placed fifth in the PIAA, third in the WPIAL at 126.

Ethan Kenney, Connellsville, Sr.

Three-time PIAA qualifier was seventh at 132 with 121-26 record.

Solomon Chishko, C-M, Jr.

WPIAL champ with 90-7 record was third in the state at 138.

Heath Coles, Norwin, Sr.

He was the WPIAL champion at 145 and owns 90-24 record.

Zach Voytek, Gbg. Salem, Sr.

Has 120-22 career record, was WPIAL runner-up at 152.

Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe, Jr.

WPIAL champ at 160 finished eighth in PIAA and is 82-16.

Alex DiCiantis, N. Allegheny, Sr.

He placed third in WPIAL and owns an 80-32 career record.

Matt McCutcheon, Kiski Area, Sr.

Was school's first state champ at 182, has 121-12 career record.

Jake Hart, Hampton, Sr.

Second in the PIAA and WPIAL at 195 and has 99-20 record.

Alex Campbell, C-M, Sr.

At 103-36, placed second in WPIAL and fifth in state at 220.

Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area, Jr.

He placed second in the WPIAL and fourth in the state ay 285.

Class AA

Preseason Top 10

1. Chartiers-Houston (16-6)

With three PIAA qualifiers back — Rich McGinnis, Tanner Sutton and Garrett Vulcano — the Bucs are poised to capture the WPIAL Class AA championship.

2. Burrell (16-10)

A new coach (Bud Sines) and an inexperienced team didn't stop Burrell from winning another Class AA title last season. With 10 starters back, a return trip to the finals is very possible.

3. Kittanning (12-7)

The Wildcats return 11 starters, including 2010-11 PIAA champion and last year's state third-place finisher Jason Nolf, who has a 87-1 career record after winning his first 85 bouts.

4. Jefferson-Morgan (15-4)

Eight starters along with PIAA qualifiers Jason Miller and Dustin Conti will help fuel the Rockets' attack in 2012-13.

5. South Fayette (13-8)

PIAA qualifiers Seth Carr, Jared Walker and Michael Fetchet should help the Lions push Chartiers-Houston in Section 1 and the WPIAL.

Others to watch: Bentworth (17-9), Yough (15-7), Derry Area (11-7), Keystone Oaks (6-15), Valley (13-11).

District 8city league

1. Allderdice (10-5)

The Dragons return four league champions, including PIAA qualifier Ean DiSilvio (132 pounds).

2. Carrick (6-4)

The Raiders return three PIAA Northwest Regional qualifiers, which includes seven returning starters.

3. Obama Academy (4-4)

The Eagles return three Northwest Regional qualifiers.

district 6heritage conference

1. Blairsville (16-4)

The Bobcats return 11 starters, including PIAA placewinners Scott Thompson (182, sixth) and Andrew Doak (152, seventh). Noah Tarr (138) also was a PIAA qualifier.

2. Ligonier Valley (6-8)

The Rams return seven starters, including the Patrick brothers, who were PIAA placewinners. Justin (38-3) placed fourth at 106, while Josh (22-4) placed fifth at 113.

— Rankings and breakdowns compiled by staff writer Paul Schofield

Class AA

Section breakdown

Section 1A Chartiers-Houston is the favorite, but South Fayette returns three PIAA qualifiers.

Section 1B Burgettstown returns 10 starters, including PIAA placewinner Austin McDermitt (106). South Side Beaver returns 10 starters.

Section 2A Jefferson-Morgan returns eight starters, including PIAA qualifiers Jason Miller (120) and WPIAL champion Dustin Conti (170).

Section 2B Yough returns eight starters with double-digit wins. Derry graduated four-time champion Jimmy Gulibon.

Section 3A Keystone Oaks returns 11 starters, including PIAA runner-up Nick Zanetta (126).

Section 3B Burrell returns 10 starters, and Kittanning 11.


Preseason wrestler of the year

jason nolf

Kittanning, Jr.

PIAA champ at 103 in 2010-11 is two- time WPIAL and regional champ with 87-1 career record.

Others to watch

Austin Griffiths, Southmore., So.

WPIAL runner-up was third in the state at 106 and went 38-5.

Zach Swarrow, Beth-Center, Sr.

Has 99-34 record. Was eighth in state, third in WPIAL at 113.

Nathan Reckner, S.S. Beaver, Sr.

Returning WPIAL champion at 120 owns a 111-21 career record.

Nick Zanetta, Keystone Oaks, Sr.

He was PIAA runner up at 126 and has 97-22 career record.

Shane Gentry, S.S. Beaver, Jr.

Placed eighth in the state in at 132 and has 81-22 career mark.

Nick Gavazzi, Charleroi, Jr.

Returning WPIAL champion at 138 has a 64-14 career record.

Tanner Sutton, C-H, Sr.

Returning WPIAL champion at 145 has a 99-23 career record.

Jared Walker, S. Fayette, So.

Returning WPIAL champion at 152 went 36-15 last year.

Michael Fetchet, S. Fayette, Sr.

WPIAL runner-up at 160 ended fifth in the state and is 85-38.

Dustin Conti, Jeff-Morgan, Sr.

Won 170-pound WPIAL title, was fifth in PIAA and is 100-32.

Garrett Vulcano, C-H, Sr.

WPIAL runner-up at 170 placed third at regional and is 109-35.

Dakota DesLauriers, Burrell, Sr.

Returning PIAA runner-up and WPIAL champ at 182 is 116-14.

Jake Temple, Avella, Jr.

At 62-16, he placed third in WPIAL and second in region.

Jonah Long, Mt. Pleasant, So.

WPIAL runner-up at 220 was 32-9 in 2011-12 despite injury.

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 10:42 p.m.

From the bright lights of Reno, Nev., to the even bigger spotlight of the PIAA championships in Hershey, Canon-McMillan is out to have an unprecedented wrestling season.

The Big Macs have a busy December that includes the Walsh Ironman tournament this weekend, Powerade tournament Dec. 28-29 and the Reno Tournament of Champions next week.

That will mark the first time the decorated Big Macs program ventures that far for a prestigious national tournament. But it's another first Canon-McMillan wants even more: Becoming the first team to win four consecutive WPIAL Class AAA team championships.

“We've still got a lot of fire in the oven,” Big Macs coach Chris Mary said. “It's a different calendar year, so we cherish what we've accomplished — but that's last year. It is time to turn the page and move on with a new, different group of kids.”

Canon-McMillan set a WPIAL record with eight placewinners at the PIAA championships this past March in Hershey. Three graduated, but the Big Macs return five big wrestlers.

The group of seniors Cody Wiercioch, Connor Schram and Alex Campbell and juniors Dalton Macri and Solomon Chishko has already combined for three PIAA individual championships, six appearances in a PIAA title match, nine PIAA semifinal berths and 13 trips to the Giant Center podium.

“We've got a great group of kids who are willing to make sacrifices and work hard,” said Mary, the reigning state coach of the year. “We hold them accountable to that work ethic, and we still have big goals at Canon-Mac with looking to defend the WPIAL title and ultimately the state title.

“It's a long season, and we need to stay as healthy we can through the grinder ... in December then hopefully peak at the right time as a team at the end of January.”

The Big Macs also won the PIAA team championship last season and, on the basis of the eight-placewinners' performance in Hershey, the team title at the PIAA individual tournament.

At the Class AAA level, Canon-McMillan has matched North Allegheny (1986-88) as the only schools to win three consecutive WPIAL team championships.

Equally exclusive clubs are four-time PIAA individual finalists and three-time champions. Schram and Wiercioch both have opportunities to do the former; Wiercioch can accomplish the latter.

Wiercioch, a Pitt recruit who spent his first two years of high school at Charleroi, won PIAA gold at 170 pounds last season.

“He definitely is one of the best 170-pounders in the country,” Mary said. “Being in the state finals three years and winning two titles, what a great achievement. But it's not going to be easy this year. There's a big bull's-eye on him. But he knows that and will handle it well.”

Schram, who will attend Stanford on a wrestling scholarship, has been a PIAA runner-up each of the past two seasons after winning gold at 103 pounds as a freshman. He will likely settle in at 132 pounds this season.

Campbell also will be a college athlete, though it might be in football as he is also a standout linebacker/tight end for the Big Macs. After winning the WPIAL and placing third in the PIAA at 138 pounds last season, Chishko will not wrestle in December because of an injury, but Mary warned not to count him out for postseason honors in the 145-pound division.

Macri took second in the WPIAL and fourth at the PIAA championships as a 113-pound sophomore last season. He has been bumped up to 120 pounds.

“We've got some depth, we've got some experience but we've also got to get a lot of kids mat-ready with some of our younger kids,” Mary said. “If we can gain some experience in all weight classes, we hope to ultimately have everybody prepared for the team tournament.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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