Bucknell best fit for Lower Burrell wrestler Zach Kelly
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Until he began to attend The Kiski School two years ago, Zach Kelly rarely embraced his studious side. He worried about wrestling, the sport in which he excelled at Burrell as a freshman in 2010-11.
Kelly, a Lower Burrell native, approved of the way the boarding school squeezed not only athletic but academic potential out of him.
Though he still has two years left at Kiski School, Kelly recently seized the chance to tie his future to a college he believes will steer him in the same manner as his current institution. In mid-May, he verbally committed to Bucknell, which reinstituted its Division I wrestling program for the 2006-07 season.
“It really reminded me of Kiski Prep,” said Kelly, who visited the university located in Lewisburg, Pa., just after the school year ended. He committed two weeks later. “The opportunity was there, and when I went to Bucknell it just felt perfect for me. I thought there was no reason to not (commit). It takes the pressure off me for the next two years. I can just go out and concentrate on wrestling.”
No school offered Kelly prior to Bucknell. He also considered North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Stanford and Columbia as preferable destinations but chose not to wait for additional suitors.
His stock is likely to rise during the next two seasons. Flowrestling, one of the country's top websites for the sport, ranks him No. 4 among all high school wrestlers in the 152-pound weight class. Yet he insists he'll stand by Bucknell even if other schools subtly try to change his mind.
“If anything, (other recruiters) will just make me feel better about myself, and I'm sure it'll make Bucknell feel better if one of their guys is getting recruited by more schools but stays happy with Bucknell,” he said.
When Kelly makes decisions, he tends to stand by them even in the face of temptation to change his mind. He has not regretted his transfer from Burrell, which continued to thrive without him.
In his only season with the Bucs, Kelly won a WPIAL title and qualified for the PIAA championships at 112, and the Bucs won a WPIAL team title.
“At Burrell, it was more wrestle, wrestle, wrestle,” he said. “My grades weren't where they could've been. I was a smart kid, but I didn't always put in the effort. My parents saw that. A lot of my teachers at Burrell even saw that.
“(At Kiski School), you're pretty much on your own. You have to grow up or you're not going to make it.”
He became a straight-A student in short order at his new school. And his performances on the mat improved, too.
Reclassified as a freshman at Kiski School, he placed third in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament and fourth at the National Prep championships as a 132-pounder.
Last season, he took second in the National Prep championships and fifth in the prestigious Beast of the East tournament in Delaware at 152.
“Probably the only person who thought he was under the radar as far as his talent was Zach himself,” Kiski School coach Joe Ross said.
Kelly adopted a more aggressive wrestling style. He worried less about cutting weight and focused on maintaining a healthy routine. He matured on the mat and off it.
He misses his Burrell teammates, most of whom were there when he started wrestling at 5 years old. He still practices with them during the offseason. There's temptation to return, but he understands the importance of Kiski School's structured setting. He must continue to become the kind of person that caught the eye of Bucknell.
“It was really cool to see that,” he said of his 3.8 grade-point average. “And to know that I had that in me.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.