7 Connellsville wrestlers advance to WPIAL quarterfinals

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

In the WPIAL/PIAA Class AAA Southwest Regional, a strong start is so important.

On Thursday, seven of the nine Connellsville wrestlers who qualified for the tournament accomplished that goal by winning their first-round match at Norwin.

Those seven advanced to Friday's quarterfinals, set to begin at 5:30 p.m.

“It was nice,” Connellsville coach Tommy Dolde said. “A lot of our younger kids need this situation.”

Tyler Kenney (106 pounds), Daniel Leonard (113), Ethan Kenney (132), William Bell (138), Tyler Steele (145), Matt Butler (195) and Dylan Miller (285) were first-round winners.

Bell didn't wrestle a lot of matches during the regular season, but he is intent on making up for lost time.

“I lost a wrestle-off (at the beginning of the season) to my good friend, Tyler Steele, and then I didn't really have my head in it,” Bell said. “But I changed my attitude, and I realized if I wanted to be good, I had to pick things up.”

Bell started with an impressive 15-0 technical fall over Butler's Xavier Bennett.

“I worked hard at sectionals, and I gave it my best and I feel like right now I'm a different wrestler,” Bell said. “I've picked things up, and I'm not sloppy. I'm more focused, and I realize what is important. I want to be one of the best that comes out of this program.”

For Leonard, getting a strong start meant starting fast in his first-round bout against West Allegheny's Ryan Cunningham.

“I like to set the tone for the first two periods,” Leonard said after posting a 9-6 decision. “I like to be ahead, and that way if the other kid has some big move, I am able to counter and still be ahead. It's real important to set the tone because then they know what you are all about.”

Miller was victorious by fall, and Ethan Kenney won by major decision. Tyler Kenney, Steele and Butler won via decision.

With the quarterfinals looming, Dolde offered simple advice: “Don't look ahead. Just focus on the one you've got.”

Tommy Provance (160) fell to the consolation bracket after dropping a first-round decision.

Dale Provance (152) did not make weight and was a scratch.

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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