Hampton cleans up at Allegheny County wrestling tournament
By Jerry Clark
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 11:19 a.m.
The Allegheny County Wrestling Championship tournament is a gauntlet where local wrestlers fight hard to earn points for their team, recognition in the WPIAL and to show their stuff against the best in the county.
This season saw six local wrestlers earn a gold or a silver, and the Hampton wrestling squad took second as a team with a score of 203.5. North Allegheny became the first team to earn three team titles at this tournament as the Tigers scored 240.
The Titans had a pair of wrestlers earn second-place finishes as freshman Mike Heinl upset the No. 1- and No. 4-ranked wrestlers in the 106-pound weight class and battled hard against Gage Curry of North Hills in the finals. Heinl lost, 7-1, but made a name for himself as a force with the WPIAL championships on the horizon.
“Mike had a great tournament,” Shaler coach Drew D'Agostino said. “It's great to be a freshman and finish second in such a big tournament. This is the second tournament he finished second in. He can make some noise in WPIALs.”
Heinl was ranked ninth in his class, and although he felt he deserved a higher seed, he did his talking on the mat.
“I knew I had a shot at the finals,” Heinl said. “I had to beat the No. 1 and No. 4 guys to do it.
“Gage is a good wrestler, he brought it to me, and I was not as prepared as I should have been.”
In the 126-pound bracket, Jordan McGonigle improved on last year's third-place finish to take second. D'Agostino said the expectation is gold next year.
“We look for progress,” D'Agostino said. “Tyler (Walker, of North Hills, McGonigle's opponent in the finals) is a tough kid. This is the third time they wrestled. Jordan battled ... he works hard and had a great tournament. I am really pleased.”
McGonigle acknowledged the tournament as one of his favorites.
“I love this tournament; the whole county is here, and it gives you a good look at the competition,” McGonigle said. “I am a young wrestler, so I am thinking about making it to WPIALs now and then hopefully states.”
The Rams were represented in the finals by Brendan Burnham in the 160-pound classification. Burnham fell to North Hills' Jonathan Avon, 5-1.
Rams coach Stephen Joseph said his team needs to be in better condition.
“We have to do some more work there, but Brendan making the finals is great for our program,” Joseph said. “We have young kids coming up, so it was good to see him make it so far.”
Burnham said the battle in his classification was primarily in the upright position, something he handled well, and that gave him confidence heading into the finals.
“That last match was a battle on our feet,” Burnham said. “I beat everyone else that way, but I know I have to work harder. I took fifth last year as a freshman, (so this season was another step).”
Three champions were crowned in the Hampton camp, and Kevin Synan got things moving early. Synan earned his 100th career win in the tournament and a county gold in the 145-pound class.
Synan scored a 3-0 win over Chris Nuss of Central Catholic.
“This was the fourth time I wrestled him, so I knew what to do,” Synan said. “He led off to my leg, and I got him circling and then was able to ride it out.
“I just needed a takedown then pounded him on top.”
This win was especially special for Synan, because he missed the tournament last season with a concussion.
In the 195-pound championship, Jake Hart defeated North Hills' Alen Turcinhodzic, 5-3.
“This is my first county title,” Hart said. “Unlike the last two times, I got someone I knew, and I knew what I had to do to win. I know his shots and how he is going to react to my stutters ... I took him down with my single-leg — that's my bread and butter.
“I am super excited, because he is a tough kid, now I just have to keep my offense up and keep doing real good on defense.”
Noah Shulman bumped up to the heavyweight division for this tournament, and although the class was different, the result was the same. Shulman won the championship, 9-0, over Tyler Lever of Fox Chapel.
“He knew what was coming,” Shulman said. “We wrestled a few days earlier.”
Shulman said the team wrestled in honor of coach Joe Bursick, who had to miss the tournament due to a death in the family. The coach may not have been there physically, but he was definitely on the mind of his wrestlers and coaching staff.
“It was important to do it for him,” Shulman said.
Assistant coach Chris Hart said the hope was to get five wrestlers to the finals, but three was still quite an accomplishment.
“We performed well, and we are happy,” Hart said. “We had a guy go out early with a concussion and NA won every first-round match (and held on from there for the team win.)”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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