Darion Trimmer is one of the central figures of an up-and-coming Avonworth wrestling team that enters the WPIAL Class AA team tournament Wednesday on the strength of a bevy of freshmen and sophomores.
He exhibited some of the Antelopes' youthful enthusiasm when asked what he sees for the future of the program.
“I feel like our team will become team state champions,” Trimmer said. “And that a lot of us will go to states (as individuals), I feel, when we are all seniors and juniors.”
That's a heady prediction — particularly eyebrow-raising for a program that had won a total of eight section dual matches over the previous 10 seasons combined.
But things are changing at Avonworth. The Antelopes tied for the Class AA Section 3-A title and qualified for the WPIAL team tournament.
Avonworth opens against Bentworth 6 p.m. at Chartiers-Houston.
Avonworth wrestling is light years ahead of where it was just a few years ago — the school district was reportedly considering dropping the program before Tim Giel took over as athletic director in 2010.
The future, it seems, is even brighter. Ten of the Antelopes' starters are either freshmen or sophomores.
“We're doing a little better than expected,” said Giel, the longtime coach at Shady Side Academy. “When we first took over the program a couple years ago, we had one or two kids I knew were part of a good group of eighth graders coming up the next year.
“So we had five freshmen last year, and those kids are sophomores this year and now five freshmen this year.
“We're a little ahead of where I thought they'd be at this point. The kids are working hard. I can't say enough about how hard they're working in the room.”
Trimmer joins fellow sophomore Wes Bartholomew as the lone returning WPIAL individual championship qualifiers from last season.
Bartholomew went at 132 pounds and is up to 138 this season.
Trimmer placed fourth at 120 last season.
Giel described Bartholomew as “one of those kids who just finds a way to win.” Trimmer, Giel said, is more of a student of the sport, a tactician.
“Trimmer and Bartholomew are kind of the leaders on the team as sophomores,” Giel said. “They have the most experience and obviously have the best records as well.
“They've done some remarkable things this year. They're the ones that, when I need the rest of the team to step up, I tell them to look at them.”
The Antelopes' other sophomore returnees are 195-pounder Brandon Wasko and Cam Kozak, who competes in the 145- and 152-pound weight classes.
In his first season on the team, sophomore Ka'Dale Coles advanced to the third round of the Allegheny County tournament's heavyweight bracket.
Among Avonworth's strong crop of freshmen is Darion's brother, Anthony Trimmer, at 126 pounds.
Tyler Wisniewski (106) and Isaac Eames (113) are other Antelopes freshmen who are making their mark in a lighter weight class.
At 220, Cody Crawford advanced to the third round of the county tournament.
It all adds up to plenty of hope for winning for a program that not too long ago was mired in losing.
“(Recent) practices have been unbelievably spirited,” Giel said. “They're going after it, and they're working hard. They're starting to believe.”
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