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Kiski Area wrestlers strive for photo finish

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 10:22 p.m.

Following a rare photo-less year, Kiski Area is striving to make this wrestling season picture perfect.

For the Cavaliers, it's all about earning a framed team photo in the school's wrestling room. Only PIAA-qualifying teams or individuals earn the immortal honor.

“Our coach always makes us a deal with us — if we make it to states, we get a picture up on the wall of the wrestling room,” senior Cole Landowski said. “We always have something to look forward to and a goal in mind. We always want to have goals when you compete in a wrestling season, and that's what we always want to strive for.”

The seniors on this season's team were part of Kiski Area squads that earned themselves some camera time in 2010 and '11. Last season, the Cavaliers appeared well on their way to another trip to Hershey after finishing the regular season undefeated in dual matches — but Kiski Area in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals to North Allegheny.

“The team goal is definitely to bounce back from last year — because we were so close — and make it to states as a team,” junior heavyweight Shane Kuhn said.

Heading into a critical Section 1-AAA match against Franklin Regional on Wednesday, the Cavaliers are 8-0 in duals and were champions of the Eastern Area Invitational early last month.

They also placed fourth at the Manheim Holiday Wrestling Tournament last week, a solid showing considering Kiski Area was without junior 120-pounder Ryan Hardaway.

“Like always, everyone's come together as a team, and we're wrestling really strong as individuals,” Kuhn said.

Nowhere is Kiski Area more solid than at 195 pounds, where reigning PIAA champion and Penn State recruit Matt McCutcheon wrestles.

“He's just a great kid — off the mat and on the mat,” senior Kyle Skelly said. “No matter where he's at, he's always in a great mood and always just great to be around.

“And he's very influential on his teammates. He's a great wrestler and a good practice partner.”

At 152 pounds, Skelly joins McCutcheon, Landowski and Jake McClarnon (220 pounds) and Shawn McGowan (160) as seniors who start for Kiski Area.

Landowski was a PIAA qualifier at 138 pounds last season. This season, he hopes to do even better at 145 pounds.

Freshmen Jake York (106 pounds) and Tyler Worthing (182) are striving for successful seasons.

Kuhn was the WPIAL runner-up at 285 pounds as a sophomore last season. He headlines a talented junior class that includes Hardaway, 113-pounder Mitch Nagy and 132-pounder Jake Ardellicz. Vaughn Curcio (126 pounds), Garrett Fitzsimmons (138 pounds) and Dakota Lang (170 pounds) are sophomores in Kiski Area's lineup.

“Overall, they're a great group of kids,” Cavaliers coach Chuck Tursky said. “When you have kids like this, it's just a pleasure to coach. I can't ask for anything more than that.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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