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Seven Norwin wrestlers advance to WPIALs

| Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Julian Jones is twisted by Norwin's Frank Gill 113 lb. match in the Section 1-AAA wrestling championships Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at Kiski Area High School. Jones lost the match, 8-2, and finished in 5th place.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area's Darren Miller faces off against Norwin's Kurtis Phipps for first place in the Section 1-AAA wrestling championships Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 at Kiski Area High School. Miller won the 106 lb. match, 3-1.

The Norwin wrestling team will be well-represented at the WPIAL Class AAA tournament after seven Knights had strong performances at the Section 1 tournament Saturday.

“I am extremely happy with what we did,” Norwin coach Brandon Miller said. “Our section is one of the toughest in the state. It was a great weekend.”

Leading the way was Kurtis Phipps (29-3) at 106 pounds. The freshman scored a fall against Greensburg Salem's Mason Jobe in 1 minute, 50 seconds and a 4-3 decision over Latrobe's Gabe Willochell to reach the finals. But Phipps dropped a 3-1 decision to Kiski Area's Darren Miller to finish second.

“He came up just a little short,” Coach Miller said. “He pushed (Miller) to the brink and there was a questionable takedown. Kurtis was on point with his wrestling this weekend.”

A pair of veterans walked away with third-place finishes to keep their seasons alive. Chris Zona (24-13) fell to Kiski Area's Cam Connor in the semifinals but rebounded with wins over Penn-Trafford's Chris Risnear, by fall in 51 seconds, and Greensburg Salem's Ian Ewing, 7-0, to earn bronze.

After dropping a 5-4 decision to Hempfield's Trevor Verkleeren in his first match, Kyle Turcovsky (23-10) rebounded with three straight wins to place third at 152 pounds. In the wrestleback bracket, Turcovsky topped Franklin Regional's Max McCann, 4-0; Greensburg Salem's Luke Ewing, 1-0; and Verkleeren, 6-0, in a rematch.

“(Turcovsky) wrestled tough,” Brandon Miller said. “He has battled injuries throughout his career, and it has cost him in the postseason. We are excited to see what he can do this year.”

Freshman Ryan Weinzen also finished in third place at 160 pounds. After dropping a 3-2 decision to Franklin Regional's Dan Contraguerro in the semifinals, Weinzen (20-12) bounced back with a 10-0 major decision over Latrobe's Angelo Harr and a pin over Gateway's Caleb Lehman in 2:21.

A pair of Knights reached the third-place consolation match but were unable to win. Junior Jason Miller (23-9) lost to Penn-Trafford's Nick Coy by fall at 126 pounds to finish fourth.

“In the semifinals he faced Spencer Lee, who is who he is,” Brandon Miller said. “The end goal for (Miller) is making the state tourney and placing.”

Sophomore Bryce Long (20-13) lost to Kiski Area's Jack Blumer by fall at 132 pounds in the third-place consolation match. Freshman Frank Gill (11-16) kept his season alive at 113 pounds by scoring an 8-2 decision over Kiski Area's Julian Jones in the fifth-place consolation match.

Having a number of Knights underclassmen move on to the WPIAL tournament has their coach excited about what the future holds.

“Our section tournament is tough,” Miller said. “They stepped up. They are critical for our future success. All the freshmen placed and advanced to WPIALs, which is huge.”

Missing from the tournament was Chad Coles. The 182-pound senior had been Norwin's top wrestler, compiling a 24-2 record. But he suffered an upper-body injury and had to have surgery.

“That was heartbreaking for his teammates and coaches,” Miller said. “He has been a nucleus for us. If he had competed, he would have been a No. 1 seed, and I felt strongly he would have won a section title.”

As the seven Norwin wrestlers head to the WPIAL tournament Friday and Saturday at Canon-McMillan, Miller wants them to just focus on their next match.

“I want them to battle as hard as they can,” he said. “I don't want them to worry about seeds or rankings. If they go out and take care of business, I think we can get a couple of guys to Hershey and maybe win some medals.”

Nathan Smith is a freelance writer.

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