Charleroi wrestler commits to Pitt
The University of Pittsburgh wrestling program will have a noticeable local look this season, which will be even stronger next year.
Along with returning veteran P.J. Tasser and freshman Cody Wiercioch, Charleroi High School standout Nick Gavazzi has committed to the Panthers for the 2014-15 season.
Already a two-time WPIAL Class AA champion, Gavazzi has a 105-18 cumulative record as he begins his senior season. He is competing at 145 pounds this year after winning 138-pound titles his sophomore and junior seasons.
Gavazzi also earned a medal at last March's PIAA championships by placing fifth.
Tasser is a 174-pound redshirt senior from Belle Vernon Area High School. Last season, he compiled a 21-7 overall record, which included an 18-7 mark at 174 pounds.
Tasser took first place at the Franklin & Marshall and Edinboro Open tournaments last season and was a 2012 NCAA Division I national qualifier after placing third in the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) championships. He owns a 51-29 career collegiate record.
Tasser's older brother, Donnie Tasser, concluded his collegiate career with the Panthers last spring. The 157-pounder finished the season with a 21-12 overall record and qualified three times for Nationals.
Wiercioch is a 165-pound freshman who wrestled his final two scholastic years at Canon-McMillan High School after competing for Charleroi his first two seasons. He and Gavazzi were teammates in 2010-11.
He begins his collegiate career after compiling a brilliant 168-5 cumulative record, including a 91-1 mark his final two seasons. Wiercioch won 170-pound Class AAA titles his junior and senior seasons after winning the 152-pound Class AA crown for the Cougars as a freshman.
Aided by Wiercioch, undefeated Canon-McMillan become the first team to win four straight WPIAL Class AAA team titles and the first WPIAL team to win a second consecutive PIAA Class AAA team championship at the team tourney. The Big Macs also won a third straight team title at the individual championships last season.
Pittsburgh finished the 2012-13 season with a 9-6 overall dual meet record and won a third consecutive Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) tournament championship before placing 15th at the national tournament.
The Panthers now compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
When Belle Vernon Area High School's baseball team takes the field next year, a new but familiar coach will be in the dugout.
Daryl Hixenbaugh was hired to lead the Leopards by a unanimous vote earlier this fall by the Belle Vernon Area School Board.
A well-known, experienced and successful local baseball coach, Hixenbaugh coached Belle Vernon's varsity baseball team from 1987 through 1994 and led the Leopards to a pair of section championships.
He replaces Dan Palm, who coached the team the previous seven seasons. Palm coached the Leopards to five winning seasons, including three consecutive WPIAL Class AAA playoff appearances over this final three seasons.
The 2012 Leopards tied Greensburg-Salem for the Section 2-AAA title as both teams finished with 11-3 marks. Following the regular season, Belle Vernon reeled off three playoff wins before falling, 1-0, in the WPIAL championship game to Blackhawk. That Leopards team finished 19-6 overall and also reached the PIAA quarterfinals.
Hixenbaugh coached at The Kiski School in Saltsburg the past seven seasons and coached two years at Baldwin High School after leaving Belle Vernon.
He has worked more than 25 years as a major league scout, having served the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees on a part-time and full-time basis.
Bruce Wald is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.