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Highlands wrestlers making best of shorthanded roster

Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Highlands wrestling coach Logan Downes talks with his depleted during practice at Highlands Community Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Highlands wrestling coach Logan Downes talks with his depleted during practice at Highlands Community Center.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch - Highlands wrestler Zach Mazur (right) takes down teammate Nolan Wise during wrestling practice on Monday at Highlands Community Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Erica Hilliard  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Highlands wrestler Zach Mazur (right) takes down teammate Nolan Wise during wrestling practice on Monday at Highlands Community Center.

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Kiski Area, senior

Claim to fame: Skelly, who has 104 career wins, used a two-point reversal and two-point near fall in the final 10 seconds to upset Franklin Regional's Josh Shields, 4-2, in a 160-pound bout at a dual meet last week. Skelly (16-3) also won at 152 pounds at the North Hills Duals on Dec. 15.

“He's one of those guys who is the heart and soul of the team,” coach Chuck Tursky said. “He works hard every day. You can't make practice too hard for him. He leads by example.”

What are your college plans? What will be your major?

I will be going to Pitt-Johnstown. I don't know if I will wrestle next year. I haven't received any offers yet. If I do, I will reconsider. I will major in mechanical engineering. I like calculus and physics.

What has been your most memorable win?

I would have to say my freshman year during the sectional finals against Penn-Trafford. My teammates told me I just have to keep it close in order to give the team a chance to win. In the end, I was able to upset the kid (Casey Cameron) by decision.

Who do you think is the toughest opponent you may face down the road?

I would have to say individual sectional tournament since the top four at 152 in the WPIAL are in my section. I think it will be tougher than states.

— Andrew John

Wrestling rankings

Class AAA

Rec. Pvs.

1. Canon-McMillan 6-0 1

2. Kiski Area 10-0 3

3. Connellsville 10-1 4

4. Greensburg Salem 6-1 5

5. Hampton 8-1 6

6. Franklin Regional 7-1 2

7. North Allegheny 6-2 9

8. Latrobe 3-1 NR

9. Butler 2-1 9

10. Belle Vernon 6-2 10

Class AA

1. Chartiers-Houston 3-1 1

2. Burrell 6-3 2

3. Yough 11-1 3 4. South Fayette 3-0 5

5. Kittanning 2-2 4

Class AAA individuals

106: 1. Luke Pletcher (12-2), Latrobe; 2. Gage Curry (14-1), North Hills; 3. Brendon Price (14-5), Canon-McMillan; 4. Chris Eddins (14-6), Greensburg Salem; 5. Scotty Stossel (10-4), NA.

113: 1. A.C. Headlee (23-3), Waynesburg; 2. Ricky Cavallo (10-5), Hempfield; 3. James Harrison (11-0), West Mifflin; 4. Mitch Hartman (10-2), Belle Vernon; 5. Kevin Kinyua (10-3), Mt. Lebanon.

120: 1. Sam Krivus (11-3), Hempfield; 2. Dalton Macri (17-4), Canon-McMillan; 3. Dom Forys (13-3), North Allegheny; 4. Vincenzo Joseph (9-5), Central Catholic; 5. Blake Caudill (10-2), Butler.

126: 1. Connor Schram (18-3), Canon-McMillan; 2. Michael Kemerer (13-4), F. Regional; 3. Tyler Walker (15-0), North Hills; 4. Nate Russo (14-2), Belle Vernon; 5. Austin Shaw (17-3), Gbg. Salem.

132: 1. Tyler Smith (14-3), Franklin Regional; 2. Joel Pezze (9-3), Norwin; 3. Drew Walker (13-2), North Hills; 4. Italo Merante (9-2), Peters Township; 5. Corey Wilding (9-4), USC.

138: 1. Josh Maruca (14-4), Franklin Regional; 2. Justin Alexander (21-6), Central Catholic; 3. Ethan Kenney (8-4), Connellsville; 4. Jesse Rodgers (11-2), NA; 5. Jake Shaffer (10-4), Latrobe.

145: 1. Josh Shields (13-4), Franklin Regional; 2. Cole Landowski (16-1), Kiski Area; 3. Kevin Synan (11-4), Hampton; 4. Tyler Steele (5-0), Connellsville; 5. Brandon Heinzelman (18-3), Ringgold.

152: 1. Tyler Reinhart (16-3), Greensburg Salem; 2. Heath Coles (10-2), Norwin; 3. Kyle Skelly (15-2), Kiski Area; 4. Kyle Coniker (13-6), Central Catholic; 5. Tyler Heasley (10-2), Fox Chapel.

160: 1. Zack Zavatsky (12-1), Latrobe; 2. Zach Voytek (19-1), Greensburg Salem; 3. Dom Nania (9-4), Hempfield; 4. Brendan Burnham (7-1), Pine-Richland; 5. Austin Bell (17-2), Belle Vernon.

170: 1. Cody Wiercioch (18-1), Canon-McMillan; 2. Brandon Olszewski (11-1), Hampton; 3. Kellan Stout (11-1), Mt. Lebanon; 4. Noah Wilps (9-4), Chartiers Valley; 5. Ryan Hannon (9-0), Butler.

182: 1. Adam Nickelson (15-0), Belle Vernon; 2. Zach Smith (11-4), North Allegheny; 3. Drew Phipps (13-3), Norwin; 4. Tyler Worthing (14-6), Kiski Area; 5. Raistlen Willett (17-6), Gbg. Salem.

195: 1. Matt McCutcheon (16-0), Kiski Area; 2. Jake Hart (13-1), Hampton; 3. Alex DiCiantis (5-1), NA; 4. Alen Turcinhodzic (12-3), North Hills; 5. Anthony Cable (11-4), Gbg. Salem.

220: 1. Alex Campbell (16-4), Canon-McMillan; 2. Cole Macek (6-0), Montour; 3. Noah Shulman (12-4), Hampton; 4. James Keys (9-3), West Mifflin; 5. Zach DeLuca (17-7), Central Catholic.

285: 1. Shane Kuhn (17-0), Kiski Area; 2. Damon Sims Jr. (2-0), Hopewell; 3. Tyler Mears (10-5), Latrobe; 4. Angelo Broglia (18-5), Canon-McMillan; 5. Tyler Lever (11-2), Fox Chapel.

Class AA individuals

106: 1. Austin Griffith (9-1), Southmoreland; 2. Austin McDermitt (11-1), Burgettstown; 3. Brendon Howard (15-1), Jefferson-Morgan.

113: 1. Cody Charles (14-1), Yough; 2. George Phillipi (14-2), Derry; 3. Jake Rothka (9-2), Bentworth.

120: 1. Nathan Reckner (15-1), South Side Beaver (15-1); 2. Seth Carr (10-1), South Fayette; 3. Rich McGinnis (13-6), Chartiers-Houston.

126: 1. Patrick DeWitt (12-1), Valley; 2. Vince Vahaly (5-1), Bentworth; 3. Greg Bulsak (12-4), South Park.

132: 1. Jason Nolf (18-0), Kittanning; 2. Nick Zanetta (10-1), Keystone Oaks; 3. Shane Gentry (15-1), South Side Beaver.

138: 1. Nick Gavazzi (11-0), Charleroi; 2. Steven Edwards (11-4), Burrell; 3. Jason Miller (16-2), J-M.

145: 1. Tanner Sutton (15-4), Chartiers-Houston; 2. Phil Marra (9-4), Burrell; 3. Matt Johnston (12-1), West Greene.

152: 1. Boe Bonzo (12-2), Freedom; 2. Grant Fetchet (11-1), SF; 3. Corey Falleroni (14-2), Burrell.

160: 1. J.J. Walker (6-1), South Fayette; 2. Derek Hull (12-5), Chartiers-Houston; 3. Nico Brown (9-4), Beth-Center.

170: 1. Mike Fetchet (11-0), South Fayette; 2. Dalton Rosa (11-0), Laurel; 3. Connor Payne (15-2), South Side Beaver.

182: 1. Dakota DesLauriers (8-0), Burrell; 2. Dustin Conti (12-0), Jefferson-Morgan; 3. Terrell Fields (10-1), Valley.

195: 1. Garrett Vulcano (16-2), C-H; 2. Eli Holt (13-4), Mt. Pleasant; 3. Cody Jacobs (10-2), West Greene.

220: 1. Jake Temple (11-1), Avella; 2. Tom Sever (15-2), Yough; 3. Tyler Cousins (8-3), Freedom.

285: 1. Jake Beistel (10-1), Southmoreland; 2. Allan Beattie (14-4), Burrell; 3. Christian Williams (13-2), Yough.

— Paul Schofield

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 10:54 p.m.

Undermanned Highlands has competed in just one wrestling tournament this season, so the team has spent most of its time in the practice room.

It should come as no surprise, then, that boredom set in for this small group, which had to cancel its dual-match schedule because it had only five varsity wrestlers.

Make that six with the return of Allan Cratsenberg, who spent a short hiatus from the mat playing on the basketball team.

Highlands is proof that practice doesn't have to be all work and no play. These half-dozen juniors and their virtual one-man coaching staff — former Valley standout Logan Downes — are as serious as a top-tier program with high numbers. But they can't be intense every minute of every practice.

“To keep it interesting, we play games,” said 170-pounder Zach Mazur. “We play knee football, where you run around on your knees and try to tackle people. And there's T-shirt tag, where one person's it and everybody chases them around. It's fun.”

It's clearly been a unique season for Highlands, which competed in the Southmoreland Tournament. They were scheduled to compete in the Indiana Tournament, too, but a last-second conflict regarding an entry fee forced Highlands to pull out of the event.

They'll be at the Allegheny County Tournament this weekend at Fox Chapel. And they also plan to compete in the Burgettstown Tournament and then the Section 3-AA tournament, which could lead to spots in the WPIAL postseason.

“It's definitely a different atmosphere this year,” Mazur said. “It's actually a lot more intense to me. You have to practice a lot harder because you know if you lose and get knocked out fast, you don't have mat time.”

The team's other wrestlers are Kendrick Moore (120), Nolan Wise (138), Derrick Mazur (160) and Tommy Grates (195).

All are short on mat experience but eager to improve. The Rams hope to put together a full team next season, but until then, they'll continue to work together — a six-pack of rogue dedication.

“The guys come to the practice room really excited,” Downes said. “We vary it a little. Sometimes we'll condition first before we work out, or we'll condition in the middle or end. It's not all technique work. Some days we go for an hour, some days more.”

Downes, who gets spotty help from volunteer coaches, often grapples with his wrestlers, but that leaves one man out.

“It can be tough; we're doing the best possible job we can,” he said.

Cratsenberg received a warm welcome upon returning. He reached the PIAA tournament as a sophomore at 195 pounds. He'll start out at 220 this season.

“We're excited to get our state qualifier back,” Downes said. “He needs to get some rust off. The kid is stronger this year than he was last year.”

Cratsenberg missed competing, even with the program lacking participation.

“I was cleaning out my closet and saw my wrestling shoes,” Cratsenberg said. “I put them on and realized I wanted to come back.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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