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BVA close second at weekend tourney

| Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, 12:21 a.m.

It's no secret that Belle Vernon Area's wrestling program has been on the rise in recent seasons.

One example is the fact that two wrestlers joined the 100-win club earlier this season.

And a look at the Leps' performance in the prestigious Steve DeAugustoni Holiday Classic at West Mifflin over the holiday weekend is further proof that the program is headed in the right direction.

BVA finished a close second to champion North Hills, 203-201, in the 31-team field at West Mifflin.

The Leps had three individual champions and eight total medalists among their 12 competitors in the event.

The second-place finish represents the highest standing in a team tournament in the BVA wrestling program's history.

“It's the first time that I can think of we have finished this high,” said BVA coach Jack Jolley. We finished fifth in the tournament a year ago. It's not so much that we finished second, but we were only two points behind (North Hills). It came down to their last kid winning his last match. It was exciting for us and I'm so proud of our kids. They just did so well.”

BVA was 14 points behind North Hills after the first day and closed hard Saturday before falling just short.

The three champions for the Leps were Brandon Hasson (120 pounds), Derek Verklereen (145) and Adam Nickelson (185).

Finishing third overall were Lep grapplers Mitch Hartman (113), Nathan Russo (126), Josh Godzin (152) and Austin Bell (160).

Milton Kobaly (170) earned a fifth-place finish.

Jolley says the key to BVA's surge in wrestling is having a solid program from top to bottom.

“Our program is doing well on all levels, from elementary to junior high to varsity,” he said. “We're feeding each program and we're getting kids moving up who have experience in wrestling. Plus, we're getting numbers. It's the system, more than anything. I have some hard workers all the way down.”

BVA (6-1, 2-0) returns to match play Thursday at home against Connellsville.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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