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North Hills wrestling twins have title aspirations

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta, left, and North Hills' Drew Walker grapple in their 132-pound bout during the Allegheny County Wrestling Finals at Fox Chapel High School on Saturday, January 12, 2013. Zanetta won the match, 6-2.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta, left, and North Hills' Drew Walker grapple in their 132-pound bout during the Allegheny County Wrestling Finals at Fox Chapel High School on Saturday, January 12, 2013.  Zanetta won the match, 6-2.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch - North Hills' Tyler Walker moves in on Shaler Area's Jordan McGonigal in their 126-pound bout during the Allegheny County Wrestling Finals at Fox Chapel High School on Saturday, January 12, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>North Hills' Tyler Walker moves in on Shaler Area's Jordan McGonigal in their 126-pound bout during the Allegheny County Wrestling Finals at Fox Chapel High School on Saturday, January 12, 2013.
- Hopewell wrestler Damon Sims Jr. Submitted
Hopewell wrestler Damon Sims Jr. Submitted

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Hopewell, senior

Claim to fame: Sims Jr. (19-1), who is ranked second at 285 pounds in Class AAA, won the MAC tournament last month after beating West Allegheny's Shea Beaumont, 4-0. One of only four wrestlers from Aliquippa who wrestle as part of a co-op with Hopewell, he also finished second at the Burgettstown Tournament.

“I have been doing OK. I'm almost there, but I'm not all way there,” Sims Jr. said. “The match I lost at Burgettstown, I didn't wrestle well at all. I lost to a freshman, so it has made me work harder and step my game up.”

What do you think you need to work on?

Takedowns and still work on top and bottom position. But, most importantly, my takedowns and top position.

What's it been like to gain interest at Aliquippa with the co-op program?

It's hard, and that's why the rest of the season is most important to me. I can show the other kids that there is another way out. I'm doing something positive. Most wrestlers from the youth training also play on the football team. It makes kids more coachable.

You've said your dad is your role model. How influential has he been in your life?

We have been through a lot of stuff. This year, he has sent me out on my own to become a better wrestler and person. He has allowed me to gain experience and bring it to the other kids. He's a good wrestler, too. He's made me a better wrestler and athlete.

What do you like the most about wrestling, moreso than any other sport?

Everything is on you. If I lose, it's on me. I can't blame it on anyone else. With football, I can blame people like the quarterback. But in wrestling, if I'm not wrestling the way I was coached or practicing, then it's my fault. Football is a team sport. I can blame someone if I choose, but wrestling I can't.

— Andrew John

Class AAA Rankings

106: 1. Luke Pletcher, Latrobe (30-2); 2. Gage Curry, North Hills (28-2); 3. Brendon Price, Canon-McMillan (31-6); 4. Kevin Miller, Norwin (21-7); 5. Mike Heinl, Shaler (22-5).

113: 1. A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg (32-3); 2. Dom Forys, North Allegheny (33-2); 3. James Harrison, West Mifflin (25-1); 4. Phil Mary, Peters Twp. (25-5); 5. Mitch Hartman, Belle Vernon (23-7).

120: 1. Sam Krivus, Hempfield (29-3); 2. Dalton Macri, Canon-McMillan (35-5); 3. Vincenzo Joseph, Central Catholic (16-7); 4. Brenden Hasson, Belle Vernon (30-3); 5. Conner Medlang, F. Reg., (6-2).

126: 1. Connor Schram, Canon-McMillan (34-3); 2. Michael Kemerer, F. Regional (29-4); 3. Tyler Walker, N. Hills (28-1); 4. Tyler Buckiso, Peters Twp. (29-2); 5. Nate Russo, Belle Vernon (28-4).

132: 1. Tyler Smith, Franklin Regional (35-3); 2. Ethan Kenney, Connellsville (23-6); 3. Drew Walker, North Hills (25-4); 4. Italo Merante, Peters Twp. (25-2); 5. Joel Pezze, Norwin (25-6).

138: 1. Josh Maruca, F. Regional (33-6); 2. Jesse Rodgers, NA (30-4); 3. Justin Alexander, Central Catholic (33-8); 4. Sean LaVella, Hempfield (24-4); 5. Jake Shaffer, Latrobe (26-7).

145: 1. Josh Shields, F. Regional (34-4); 2. Cole Landowski, Kiski Area (29-2); 3. Kevin Synan, Hampton (30-5); 4. Derek Verkleeren, Belle Vernon (21-6); 5. Nate Hall, West Allegheny (30-1).

152: 1. Heath Coles, Norwin (27-3); 2. Tyler Reinhart, Greensburg Salem (31-5); 3. Kyle Skelly, Kiski Area (22-4); 4. Kyle Coniker, Central Catholic (27-6); 5. Devin Austin, Penn-Trafford (29-6).

160: 1. Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe (31-1); 2. Zach Voytek, G. Salem (35-1); 3. Jonathan Avon, North Hills (23-1); 4. Austin Bell, Belle Vernon (31-6); 5. Sammy Minor, Canon-McMillan (29-6).

170: 1. Cody Wiercioch, Canon-McMillan (34-1); Kellan Stout, Mt. Lebanon (27-3); 3. Noah Wilps, Chartiers Valley (25-6); 4. Tyler Worthing, Kiski Area (26-9); 5. Damon Drositis, Hopewell (26-1).

182: 1. Adam Nickelson, Belle Vernon (31-1); 2. Alex DiCiantis, North Allegheny (28-2); 3. Drew Phipps, Norwin (30-5); 4. Brent Blaharczyk, McGuffey (21-4); 5. Zack Weaver, Butler (28-7).

195: 1. Matt McCutcheon, Kiski Area (29-0); 2. Jake Hart, Hampton (33-1); 3. Alen Turcinhodzic, North Hills (26-4); 4. Zach Smith, NA (29-7); 5. Anthony Cable, Greensburg Salem (24-4).

220: 1. Alex Campbell, Canon-McMillan (29-6); 2. Zach DeLuca, Central Catholic (31-7); 3. Cole Macek, Montour (26-2); 4. Noah Shulman, Hampton (23-4); 5. Brett Zanotto, F. Reg. (18-9).

285: 1. Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area (31-0); 2. Damon Sims Jr., Hopewell (19-1); 3. Luke Fleck, F. Reg. (15-1); 4. Angelo Broglia, Canon-McMillan (30-8); 5. Dylan Miller, Connellsville (26-4).

Class AA Rankings

106: 1. Austin Griffiths, Southmoreland (26-2); 2. Brendon Howard, Jefferson-Morgan (32-4); 3. Austin McDermitt, Burgettstown (29-4).

113: 1. George Phillippi, Derry (32-3); 2. Seth Carr, South Fayette (29-3); 3. Zach Swarrow, Beth-Center (16-5).

120: 1. Nathan Reckner, South Side Beaver (26-2); 2. Josiah Hughes, Valley (27-8); 3. Mike Novak, Mt. Pleasant (33-9).

126: 1. Patrick DeWitt, Valley (29-7); 2. John Demaske, Jefferson-Morgan (19-2); 3. Vince Vahaly, Bentworth (26-4).

132: 1. Jason Nolf, Kittanning (35-0); 2. Nick Zanetta, Keystone Oaks (26-2); 3. Shane Gentry, South Side Beaver (32-1).

138: 1. Nick Gavazzi, Charleroi (29-0); 2. Steven Edwards, Burrell (30-5); 3. Jason Miller, Jefferson-Morgan (33-7).

145: 1. Tanner Sutton, C-H (35-6); 2. Phil Marra, Burrell (22-6); 3. Ryan Zalar, J-M (18-7).

152: 1. Boe Bonzo, Freedom (20-3); 2. Taylor Jack, Kitt. (29-8); 3. Grant Fetchet, S. Fayette (29-7).

160: 1. Connor Payne, South Side Beaver (30-6); 2. Bill Bowlen, Jefferson-Morgan (27-8); 3. Jared Walker, South Fayette (24-6).

170: 1. Dustin Conti, Jefferson-Morgan (31-0); 2. Mike Fetchet, South Fayette (33-1); 3. Dalton Wildman, West Greene (26-6).

182: 1. Dakota DesLauriers, Burrell (26-0); 2. Terrell Fields, Valley (30-4); 3. Justin Overly, Mt. Pleasant (31-8).

195: 1. Garrett Vulcano, Chartiers-Houston (36-2); 2. Zac Croyle, Kittanning (21-9); 3. Zach Walker, South Fayette (28-4).

220: 1. Jake Temple, Avella (31-1); 2. Cody Jacobs, West Greene (28-4); 3. Tom Sever, Yough (27-8).

285: 1. Jake Beistel, Southmoreland (28-2); 2. Allan Beattie, Burrell (29-8); 3. Rob Wolak, South Park (18-6).

— Paul Schofield

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

If only every wrestler had the benefit of having a training partner so similar in size, ability, age, background and stage of development.

Particularly one who lives right down the hall.

Twins Drew and Tyler Walker always have had each other since they took up wrestling in junior high — and they've become two of the WPIAL's top-ranked wrestlers.

This weekend, these North Hills High School brothers begin their quests to make it to Hershey for the PIAA individual championships March 7-9.

The WPIAL Class AAA sectionals begin Saturday.

“The brothers are having a great year,” coach Jose Martinez said. “They work hard, so I know they'll work hard at sections and WPIALs. If they believe in themselves and reach deep down inside, they have what it takes.”

Drew Walker is the WPIAL's No. 3-ranked wrestler in the 132-pound weight class; Tyler Walker is No. 3 at 126 pounds. The twins, who are seniors, each have won at least 120 matches in their careers. Drew (25-4 this season) has 120 victories, and Tyler (28-1) is six career victories shy of tying the school record of 131.

Tyler won his weight class at the county tournament earlier this year; Drew was runner-up at 132 pounds.

Tyler was a PIAA qualifier last season after winning the Section 3 tournament and placing third in the WPIAL. He plans on getting back to Giant Center this March — and this time, have his brother along with him.

“What sets them apart is their hunger,” Martinez said. “They didn't wrestle until junior high and until ninth grade for varsity, but they've always worked extremely hard and been so hungry.”

The identical twins can be told apart, says Martinez, only by a slight scar over one of Tyler's eyebrows. “Or, I can tell when they wear different shoes,” he said.

The Walker brothers were into football and basketball while growing up. Martinez had to persuade them to take up wrestling.

“We always had thought it was WWE stuff and never wanted to do it,” Drew said with a chuckle.

Content in realizing that competitive wrestling was nothing like WWE, the twins haven't turned back since being introduced into the sport. They've attacked it the same way they did baseball or football before it — all-in.

“That's just the competitive nature that drives us,” Drew said. “Always competitive.”

“Together,” Tyler said, “we push each other to keep going and to reach our goals. He works really hard and he wants to place at states, and I know he's going to work hard to achieve that so I have to match that intensity. ... We always have a partner to wrestle and train with and to get better.”

The Walkers aren't the only North Hills wrestlers with legitimate WPIAL- and PIAA-qualifying aspirations. Junior Jonathan Avon (160 pounds), freshman 106-pounder Gage Curry and 195-pound senior Alen Turcinhodzic also made it to the county finals, with Avon and Curry winning.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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