Connellsville wrestlers aim for spots at state tournament

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 1:36 a.m.

As the individual portion of the high school wrestling season continues, each match becomes bigger and more intense. This week, nine Connellsville wrestlers will compete for a coveted trip to the state tournament as they take part in the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Class AAA Championships Thursday through Saturday at Norwin High School.

The top three in each weight class will advance to the state tournament March 7-9 at Giant Center in Hershey. There's a lot on the line for each wrestler this week, but that doesn't change the message that Connellsville coach Tommy Dolde has delivered to his group.

“It's one match at a time, and it's so important,” Dolde said. “Kids get beat that shouldn't get beat because they're not focused. The mental game this week has to be taken to a different level.”

Dolde noted that the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Class AAA Championships is the only regional tournament in the state that comprises just one district (District 7). He also pointed out that there are no easy rides to Hershey.

“All the brackets are tough — just like the WPIAL Tournament always is,” Dolde said. “There are different styles and different match-ups, so it's a good mix of kids, and that's what makes it so tough.”

Tyler Kenney (106 pounds, 23-8, freshman), Ethan Kenney (132, 26-6, senior), Dale Provance (152, 25-7, sophomore) and Dylan Miller (285, 31-4, senior) come into the tournament with some momentum after winning a championship at the Section 2-AAA tournament last week.

Ethan Kenney qualified for states by finishing third at WPIALs last year. He is the second seed in his bracket, the highest among the nine Connellsville competitors.

Ethan Kenney, Dale Provance and Miller each took part in the tournament last year as did Daniel Leonard (113, 19-12, sophomore) and Matt Butler (195, 21-11, sophomore), who will be making their second trip to WPIALs after a solid showing at sectionals.

Tyler Steele (145, 14-8, senior) will be making his second trip to WPIALs. He also qualified as a freshman in 2010. William Bell (138, 7-4, freshman) and Tommy Provance (160, 25-9, freshman) will have their first shot at a state bid this week.

While Tyler Kenney, William Bell and Tommy Provance will be making their first trip to WPIALs, wrestlers like Miller know exactly what lies ahead.

“There's a lot of pressure,” Miller said. “There will be a lot of close matches, so I know I'll have to work hard. It's my last year to go to states, and I think I have a pretty good chance this year. I'm going to face tough kids in the bracket, but I like where I am at right now.”

The three-day WPIAL/Southwest Regional Class AAA Championships begin with preliminary-round matches at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

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