Burrell aims to continue section dominance
Members of Burrell's wrestling team might have breathed a sigh of relief after they made it through the Section 3-AA regular-season schedule with their win streak intact.
But the Bucs, unbeaten in 76 consecutive section matches, understand they're not in the clear for another year just yet.
At the Section 3-AA team tournament Wednesday at South Allegheny High School, Burrell (7-4, 4-0) will go for a 10th straight section crown.
The Bucs, first-place finishers in subsection B, are the favorites in the four-team tournament, which begins with semifinal matches at 6 p.m. and continues with the finals at 7:30 p.m. Their path to a championship might involve another run-in with subsection cohort Kittanning (10-3, 3-1), which came close to ending Burrell's string of victories in December.
“It wakes us up to realize that there are teams out there that are just as talented as us, and we have to show up in every match,” Burrell senior 145-pounder Phil Marra said. “I don't want to be the seniors that let the tradition down. I can't let my team fall short of our goals, and our goals are even higher than WPIALs this year.”
Burrell will open the tournament with a match against subsection A second-place finisher Avonworth (4-10, 3-1). Kittanning will meet subsection A leader South Allegheny (8-2, 4-0) in the other semifinal.
When Burrell wrestled at Kittanning on Dec. 12, the Bucs won, 35-33, after sophomore 106-pounder Jason Roberts secured a 9-0 victory in the match's final bout. The team competed without three starters, two of whom — senior 182-pounder Dakota DesLauriers and freshman 126-pounder Damon Greenwald — have since recovered from injuries.
Burrell also survived a nail-biter against subsection foe Valley, 36-34, on the road Jan. 16.
Asked about a potential rematch with Kittanning in the finals, Burrell coach Bud Sines said: “It's going to be close. Without even trying to put a jinx or hex on ourselves by predicting, I'll just say it's going to be close.”
In the last two seasons, Burrell cruised to championships in the section tournaments. A year ago, the Bucs defeated Valley, 58-9, in the finals. And in 2011, they topped Kittanning, 62-17.
Shady Side Academy gave Burrell a scare in 2010 but still lost, 34-30.
Kittanning's confidence climbed to a new high for the season following a championship-winning performance at the Richland Coaches' Duals on Saturday in Johnstown, where the Wildcats went 5-0.
Before Kittanning can try to dethrone Burrell, it must get by South Allegheny, a task coach Brandon Newill said his wrestlers must take seriously.
“I know in order for us to win we're going to have to wrestle the best match we can, and we're going to have to have guys step up just like they did at Richland,” Newill said.
Senior 152-pounder Taylor Jack indicated the Wildcats won't underestimate the Gladiators.
“Everyone just has to look at the first match,” Jack said. “Everyone will look and think, ‘All right, we have Burrell next.' But you just have to go one at a time.”
All four teams in the section tournament advance to the WPIAL round; Wednesday's results influence seeding. Also, Valley (7-6, 2-2), the third-place finisher in subsection B, will travel to Keystone Oaks (2-7, 2-2), subsection A's third-place team, at 7 p.m. Wednesday. That match will determine Section 3-AA's final team-tournament qualifier.