Aggressive style helps Valley wrestlers advance to WPIAL
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If Valley wrestlers are to find success Wednesday in the opening round of the WPIAL Class AA team tournament, they will need to make opponents wrestle at their pace.
“I don't think many teams can keep up with us,” coach Steve Ansani said.
Tempo control is something Ansani, in his 10th year as coach of the Vikings, has preached to his team, and the tempo he wants is fast and filled with constant motion. He went as far as to describe a recent performance as “extremely aggressive” — exactly what he wanted.
“To win, we need to be aggressive on our feet and on the mat, keep pressure on the other wrestlers, and attack while maintaining position,” he said.
Valley enters the WPIAL tournament with a 10-10 record overall and 3-2 mark in the murderers' row that is Section 3-B. The Vikings' only section losses were against fellow playoff qualifiers Kittanning, 39-31, and six-time defending WPIAL champion Burrell, 36-34.
The Vikings qualified for the WPIAL playoffs after earning a comfortable 46-13 victory over Keystone Oaks in the Section 3-AA fifth-place qualifying match last week.
“We did battle with Burrell and Kittanning for the section title, but fell short by a few points,” Ansani said. “But we're expecting to do well in the playoffs.”
Valley's opening opponent in the WPIAL tournament will be Section 1 third-place finisher Burgettstown. If Valley can defeat the Blue Devils, it will face the winner of the No. 2 seed South Fayette and South Allegheny in the quarterfinals, immediately following the first round. Both matches will be held at South Fayette.
The last time Valley made a run in the WPIAL playoffs was in 2009, when it reached the semifinals. Junior 126-pounder Pat Dewitt, ranked No. 1 in his weight class by Trib Total Media with a 21-6 record, thinks the team has a chance to equal, or even surpass, that success.
“Our goal is to get to states,” he said. “It's really big for us to get a win. Last year, we felt really bad after we lost in the first round. We had a good team. I thought we could do it. But we're better this year.”
Ranked No. 3 by Trib Total Media at 182 pounds, junior Terrell Fields (22-3) has been a force for Valley. Senior Josiah Hughes, junior Marcus Davenport and freshman Jihad Ratlif have also played key roles.
The Vikings aren't entering the playoffs unscathed. Dylan Clarke (14-5), a 170-pound junior, is out for the season with a dislocated elbow. Sophomore Colton Buzzard (4-4) has filled in capably in his absence.
Dewitt said wrestlers fully buying into Ansani's philosophy of speed, aggression and relentlessness as keys for the team's overall improvement.
And when the team buys in, Ansani said the sky is the limit.
“You have to wrestle your style,” he said. “When you do that, you control your destiny.
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.
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