A first in the 78-year history of the WPIAL wrestling championships could occur this weekend at Norwin.
If things go as expected, the Canon-McMillan trio of Connor Schram, Solomon Chishko and Cody Wiercioch will be the first wrestlers from the same school to become three-time WPIAL champions during the same year.
The annual tournament begins Thursday with preliminary- and first-round matches. The finals are slated for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
For Schram and Wiercioch, their careers in the WPIAL tournament are similar. Both lost tight matches in the WPIAL finals as freshmen, then bounced back to capture PIAA titles a few weeks later.
Schram dropped a 2-1 decision to Connellsville's Ethan Kenney in the 103-pound final.
But Schram has bigger goals. He has reached the PIAA finals three consecutive seasons, but ended up second the past two.
"It would be awesome to win three WPIAL titles. Winning another state title is my main goal," said Schram, who will wrestle at Stanford. "I want to end my career on a high note."
Wiercioch lost to Burrell's Travis McKillop, 4-2, during his freshman season in Class AA while wrestling for Charleroi.
"Coming up short and being undefeated, it was devastating for a couple days," Wiercioch said. "You have to get over it quickly."
And he did. He defeated McKillop in the finals of the Southwest Regional in Johnstown a week later and then added his first state title.
McKillop avenged that loss by defeating Wiercioch in 2011, but after transferring to Canon-McMillan, Wiercioch won his second state title in 2012.
"It would mean a lot to become a three-time WPIAL and PIAA champion," said Wiercioch, who will wrestle at Pitt.
But one loss the 170-pound Wiercioch won't get to avenge is his overtime loss to Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller in the Powerade finals. Marsteller dropped to 160 pounds this year.
"I'm not so much disappointed that he dropped," Wiercioch said. "I would have liked that shot. The loss to him knocked me down a peg and egged me on to work harder in the room."
Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary, a three-time WPIAL champion (1982-84) at Chartiers-Houston, said both are at the top of their game.
"They are the elite of the elite in the country," Mary said. "Both are humble champions on and off the mat, and they've set the bar so high, not only for our program, but for programs across the state.
"Winning three WPIAL titles would be great, but I won't let them look past Thursday's opponent. They are good sportsmen and class acts. They are fan favorites. People from other schools enjoy watching them wrestle."
Schram and Wiercioch also have been named to the United States Dream Team Classic in Chicago on April 20.
Mary said Chishko was released to wrestle by his doctors earlier this month after an elbow injury kept him out most of this season. He won the Section 4 title at 145 pounds Saturday.
"It hurt him watching the team," Mary said "He looks powerful, determined and hungry."
Belle vernon, Sr.
Claim to fame: Nickelson (34-1) won the Section 2-AAA title at 182 pounds Saturday by pinning Elizabeth Forward's Luke Fournier in 1:43. Earlier in the season, Nickelson also won the Eastern Area Tournament at Gateway and West Mifflin Christmas Tournament.
"It felt pretty good. I pinned him in the first period," Nickelson said. "I didn't run into any hard competition during the tournament, but I still wrestled pretty good."
How do you think you will fare at WPIALs this week?
I'm definitely good enough to go out there and win. I should be able to win if I keep doing what I have been doing all year long.
Who is the toughest opponent you could face at WPIALs?
I'll probably see Alex DeCiantis from North Allegheny in the finals.
What do you think the key to your success has been this year?
I would have to probably say all the just hard work we have done. We go hard in practice. I don't think any other team in the WPIAL practices harder than us. We have a freshman on the team that has done well for us this year. We have been there motivating each other to be better wrestlers.
What are your college plans for next year?
I'm going to Pitt-Johnstown and going there to wrestle. I'm currently undecided right now on my major, but I'm leaning toward engineering.
- Andrew Joh
WPIAL Class AAA/Southwest Regional wrestling tournament
Skinny: Top 3 wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes advance to the PIAA championships March 7-9 at the Giant Center, Hershey. ... Canon-McMillan's Connor Schram, Solomon Chishko and Cody Wiercioch can become three-time WPIAL champions. ... Other returning champions are Connellsville's Ethan Kenney (103, 2010), Franklin Regional's Michael Kemerer (106), Hempfield's Sam Krivus (113), Norwin's Heath Coles (145), Latrobe's Zack Zavatsky (160) and Kiski Area's Matt McCutcheon (182).
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