BVA wrestler Bell earns All-American title
The wrestling lineage at Belle Vernon Area dates back to the Johnson brothers in the 1970s, and along the way there have been several stand out grapplers like John Jolley, the Weslager brothers, and the Tasser brothers.
And while several wrestlers have placed in action over the years at both the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments, no BVA wrestler has ever garnered the honor of being named an All-American in Freestyle wrestling.
That was, until last week.
Rising BVA sophomore Austin Bell took sixth place at 160 pounds in the USA Wrestling Cadet Freestyle Championships in Fargo, N.D.
The championships featured wrestlers from all 50 states, and the top eight in each weight class garnered the honor of All-American.
What does the accolade mean to Bell?
“It means that my hard work has paid off and it means a lot because there have been several great wrestlers from Belle Vernon.
“This tournament was a step up in competition and there were some really great (wrestlers).”
To qualify, Bell placed third at the Pennsylvania Wrestling Federation State Freestyle Championships at the beginning of June.
Last week in Fargo, Bell started out on fire.
After pinning Missouri's Dalton Lewis in 3:30 in the first round, Bell scored three straight technical falls in rounds two through four by a combined score of 44-11.
After losing in the fifth round to the eventual winner of the bracket, Mark Hall of Colorado, Bell scored another technical fall win in the sixth round over Dalton Hahn of Wisconsin, 11-1.
A technical fall is when a wrestler scores a victory by ten or more points.
After falling to eventual third place winner Josh Ugalde of New Jersey in the seventh round, Bell dropped his round eight bout to Brandon Dallavia also of New Jersey in the fifth/sixth place consolation bout.
Bell has been training during the offseason at the Odyssey Wrestling Academy in Charleroi with Jason Weslager and Mel Gray, and Weslager did not hesitate in showing his pride in Bell's accomplishment.
“This is the toughest tournament in the United States and this is a huge deal for Austin to place,” Weslager said. “A handful of other BVA wrestlers have competed over the years, but none have placed ... “He is the first and I am so proud of him. All of the hard work this summer has paid off and it should give him some momentum leading into the high school season.”
For now, Bell will take a break from the mat.
He is gearing up for football camp with the Leopards, where he started at inside linebacker a year ago as a freshman and also saw time at running back.
Then Bell will return home to the mat, where a year ago he went 35-9, placed third in the section, made it to the WPIALs and looks to improve upon that performance in the coming season.
“This year the goal is to make it to Hershey (for the PIAA tournament),” he said. “I am definitely looking forward to the season.”
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.