Walker brothers advance with victories at PIAA wrestling
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HERSHEY — When the Walker brothers are training in the wrestling room, North Hills assistant coach Vertus Jones sometimes has to separate them.
“They are so focused on competing, they try to take each other's head off,” Jones said.
But on the mat the twins feed off each other. If one wins, the other usually follows.
That's what happened Thursday during the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA Championship at Giant Center.
Even though both entered the state tournament as third-place finishers from the WPIAL and faced higher placed opponents, neither had a problem winning his match.
Tyler Walker (36-2) whipped Manheim Township junior Cortlandt Schuyler, 13-7, at 126 pounds, and, moments later, Drew Walker (33-5) defeated Delaware Valley junior Jalen Palmer, 4-1, at 132. Schuyler was the Southcentral Regional champion, and Palmer was the Northeast Regional runner-up.
The twins will be in the quarterfinals that begin at 1:30 p.m.
“Tyler starts the momentum off,” Drew Walker said. “If he loses, I'll be in a bad mood. It was good that he won. Tyler just told me to follow him because he was here last year.”
Drew Walker used two takedowns to beat Palmer. He'll face Cumberland Valley sophomore Patrick Duggan.
Tyler Walker was all over Schuyler, scoring multiple ways.
“I just got the win and did my best.” Tyler Walker said. “It was stressful watching Drew. This is my last year, so I just want to do my best.”
Tyler Walker said after watching teammate Gage Curry get beat (106), he focused on winning for him.
“I was upset after watching Gage (Curry) get beat,” Tyler Walker said.
Curry and Alen Turcinhodzic both dropped opening-round matches but stayed alive with wins in the consolation rounds.
Both Walkers said Jones has been a big help. Jones is a former state champion from Greensburg Salem and an NCAA runner-up at West Virginia.
“He knows what it feels like,” Tyler Walker said. “He's been through this. He tells us how to get through it.”
Jones said the Walkers are prepared to succeed.
“The way we train and prepare, and I think, more importantly, their will to compete, they have a competitive edge,” Jones said. “That's what gave them the mental confidence to come up here and compete against the best in the state.
“It's only one round, and they still have some work to do. We just want to get a rhythm and get that first match under our belt. They settle down and get a little confidence. We want them to achieve competitive greatness.”
The WPIAL had a good first day as 29 of the 42 in the tournament advanced with victories.
Canon-McMillan and Franklin Regional each had four wrestlers advance to the quarterfinals. Among those to win from the WPIAL were previous PIAA champions Cody Wiercioch (170) and Connor Schram (126) of Canon-McMillan and Matt McCutcheon (182) of Kiski Area. Wiercioch is going after his third state title.
Seven teams (Latrobe, North Hills, North Allegheny, Central Catholic, Hampton, Greensburg Salem and Kiski Area) each advanced two wrestlers.
Allderdice senior Brian Estep (138) and Westinghouse senior Rodjecko Christian (220) each dropped opening-round matches, but both stayed alive with wins in the consolation round.
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