Young Valley standouts shine at Section 3-AA wrestling
Slightly overshadowed by Section 3-AA counterparts Kittanning and Burrell during the dual-meet season because it lacked a deep lineup, Valley finally grabbed its slice of the limelight Saturday in the section individual championships at Avonworth High School.
All nine Vikings at the tournament placed fifth or better to earn spots in next week's WPIAL Class AA wrestling championships, six reached the section finals, and three of them secured titles in the opening event of the individual postseason.
Burrell and Kittanning also thrived at the competition, as all 13 Bucs advanced to the WPIAL round, and five won titles. All 11 Wildcats moved on, and four claimed championships. But, with the final-round bouts beginning at the 106-pound weight class, Valley owned the audience's attention early in the night.
“It sets the tone for the years to come,” said Valley coach Steve Ansani, whose six finalists included two freshmen, three juniors and one senior.
Jihad Ratliff became Valley's first freshman section champion since Dre Johnson won a title in 2007 when he defeated Avonworth's Tyler Wisniewski, 11-0, in the 106-pound finals.
Ratliff improved to 24-7 for the season and bolstered his reputation as a WPIAL title contender.
“I've just got to work harder at practice … probably on my feet,” Ratliff said. “I've got to push the action more.”
Senior Josiah Hughes (120 pounds) and junior Pat Dewitt (126) cemented Valley's dominance of the lightweights. Freshman Jacob Musco (113), junior Marcus Davenport (160) and junior Terrell Fields (182) each came up just short of gold.
Fields endured another loss — this one by pinfall — to longtime Burrell rival Dakota DesLauriers, who defeated Fields four times last season, including in the section, WPIAL and PIAA Southwest Region finals.
He accomplished a feat no other opponent of DesLauriers managed this season — he scored a takedown.
“It's great having two top-level guys from about a five-minute drive away,” DesLauriers said. “I hope we run into each other all the way through states. It shows how strong our area is.”
Steven Edwards (138), Phil Marra (145), Cory Klems (170) and Al Beattie (285) also won titles for Burrell, which had a sixth finalist in Corey Falleroni (152).
Kittanning's four championships belonged to Jason Nolf (132), Taylor Jack (152), Jacob Robb (160) and Zac Croyle (195).
Nolf (35-0), a three-time champion, experienced his closest match of the season. The unbeaten junior edged Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta, 1-0, in the finals. Zanetta is a returning PIAA runner-up.
Highlands, which did not compete in duals during the regular season and relied on three individual tournaments for postseason preparation, celebrated the fact all four of its wrestlers earned spots in the WPIAL tournament. Nolan Wise (138) had the best day of the bunch with a second-place finish.
“It's all about qualifying,” Wise said. “Placing high is nice, but I just want to keep advancing.”
Said Highlands coach Logan Downes: “Practicing is hard with just the four or five of us — it gets really repetitive. … We've been bored, or at least I know I have, just sitting around my house. Three tournaments is not enough.”
Tyler Murphy (138) placed third to lead Riverview, which had three wrestlers advance to the WPIAL tournament.
The Class AA championships begin 5:30 p.m. Friday at Chartiers Valley High School.