Kiski Area wins 1st WPIAL team wrestling title in 14 years
Kiski Area senior Brad Nagy said ‘Oh no, not again' when he saw teammate Danny Starr get taken down and almost pinned.
But the junior somehow got off his back and seconds later he exploded Canon-McMillan's upset balloon when he pinned Alec Hendal.
His pin at 195 pounds ignited the No. 1-ranked Cavaliers and helped them capture their third WPIAL Class AAA team title with a 41-21 victory over second-seed Canon-McMillan on Saturday at Penn Hills. Earlier, the Cavaliers took down Section 1 rival Franklin Regional, 51-16.
Kiski Area and Canon-McMillan advance to the PIAA Team Championships in Hershey. North Allegheny, which defeated Franklin Regional, 32-25, for third place, must defeat City League champion Carrick on Monday to advance.
Kiski Area and Canon-Mac were tied 9-9 when Hendal came out and quickly took Starr down and to his back. Canon-McMillan fans were remembering last year's semifinals when James Zeremenko pinned Tyler Worthing after almost getting pinned himself.
This time, things were reversed.
“Danny has the biggest heart,” Nagy said. “We knew if he avoided the pin, he'd pin the kid. It gave us a huge boost.”
Kiski Area, which hadn't won a team title in 14 years, then took control of the match as Tommy Starr followed with a first-period pin.
“After we got the pins from the Starrs, we pretty much dominated the match,” Kiski Area coach Chris Heater said. “I've never worked with a group of wrestlers more than desiring than this group to win this title. We have a bunch of hard-working, resilient guys. Danny's pin lit our bench.”
Kiski Area also got pins from Nick Delp (152) and Joey Blumer (145) and major decisions from Darren Miller (106) and Matt Siszka (126). It won nine of the 14 matches.
The Cavaliers also got big wins from Noah Levett (132) over Matt Oblock, 3-1, and Cam Connor (138) over Tim Hritsko, 3-1, in overtime.
“If we get that early pin, maybe we get the momentum going and the match goes different,” Canon-McMillan coach Jason Cardillo said. “They changed their lineup a little and that helped them out. They were the better team today.”
Canon-McMillan got a big win from heavyweight Brendan Furman over Isaac Reid and a win by Ken Hayman and a forfeit by Logan Macri (120) to close the gap to 25-21.
Nagy said this group believes in each other.
“Our motto this year has been ‘A Band of Brothers,' ” Nagy said. “That's what makes us so special. We're all brothers. It's a tight-knit group, and we'll do anything for anyone on this team.
“When Danny got the pin, he got us rolling. It's amazing to be a senior on this team. This isn't it. We have the state tournament and we have our eyes on the finals.”
But Kiski won the final four bouts to finish off Canon-McMillan. The Big Macs advanced to the finals by defeating North Allegheny, 34-28.
Oblock's pin of Will Baierl at 132 clinched the win.
Kiski Area won 10 of the 14 matches against Franklin Regional to breeze past the Panthers.
Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe was proud the way his team fought. Spencer Lee and Gus Solomon sat out with injuries, and Logan Miller was suspended from the team for breaking school policy.
North Allegheny won eight of the 14 matches against Franklin Regional.
Peter Klein and Dan Contraguerro won two matches each for the Panthers for third place.
“Maybe if we're healthy, we make it closer with Kiski Area,” Lebe said. “At least we gave ourselves a chance to advance to Hershey against North Allegheny. It came down to the final match.
“Now we can focus on getting healthy and getting ready for individuals. We have a lot of wrestlers with high expectations.”
Lee is a three-time undefeated WPIAL and PIAA champion.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.