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Nauman takes over deep BVA wrestling program

| Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, 10:27 p.m.
Belle Vernon Area's Brendan Hasson (top) was named to participate in the prestigious Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic at the Fitzgerald Field House.

Some numbers from Belle Vernon Area wrestling's 2012-2013 season: 16 – wins, a school-record, including two playoff wins, the best showing in school history; 10 – projected starters that are either freshmen or sophomores; 9 – returning starters; 8 – returning WPIAL qualifiers.

In short, last season was far and away the best in school history. And it's only going to get better with former PIAA-champion and two-time Pittsburgh Panther All-American Tyler Nauman now at the helm. And the expectations in the Leps wrestling room are not small.

“I have high expectations coming into a program with so much talent inside the room,” Nauman said. “And there is a lot of talent on this team, and more importantly it is a lot of young talent that can be molded into very successful wrestlers and teams. Obviously there are some really good, talented teams in the WPIAL so I don't want to say that this team is state tournament quality right now, but I would say that we could finish in the top 4-5 in the WPIAL this season and it wouldn't surprise me.”

BVA's only dual meet losses were to North Allegheny, Connellsville, Peters Township and eventual WPIAL Runner-up and PIAA third place Franklin Regional. The Leps finished second in the section and owned wins over such teams as Burrell, Waynesburg, Ringgold, Mt. Lebanon and Greater Latrobe.

The Leps' top returners include their lone senior, Brendan Hasson. Hasson is ranked fifth at 120 pounds in WPIALWrestling.net's preseason rankings and owns a career record of 84-33.

“We have one senior on the team, Brendan Hasson, who will probably be at 120 by the end of the season,” Nauman said. “Hasson is a three-time WPIAL qualifier who has won some matches each year at the WPIAL tournament. I'm looking for him to make some noise this season and really lead the team.”

The other wrestlers Nauman singled out truly speak to the Leps youth movement.

“The rest of the kids are really young; we have a huge and talented sophomore class. So the next two I would single out would be Derek Verkleeren and Austin Bell. Both are very talented and athletic wrestlers who had really good freshman season. Milton Kobaly is another sophomore who is coming off of a good varsity debut.

“All four of those guys I expect to have big years and lead our team on and off the mat.”

Bell, who was a FILA Cadet Freestyle All-American over the summer, set the Leopards' freshman win record last season with 35 victories, and looks to return to the 160 pound weight class again this season.

Verkleeren, a freshman section champ a year ago, won 26 matches and will probably start the season at 152 with an eye at 145 towards the later part of the season.

Kobaly won 30 matches last season at 170 pounds, an impressive feat for a freshman at such a heavy weight.

But this year's freshman class has an opportunity to top last season's in terms of immediate impact.

“Again, we have a solid group of freshman as well,” Nauman said. “Jarod Verkleeren is the 3rd ranked incoming freshman in the state. He won't wrestle the first half of the season due to an injury, but I expect him to be a horse for us in the middle weights whenever he gets in the lineup. Billy Korber is another really solid wrestler who was ranked in the top 30 among incoming freshman and he will probably be at 195.”

The Leps begin the season ranked tenth in the WPIAL by WPIALWrestling.net, but don't expect them to stay there for long. Nauman expects to use last season's breakout year as a stepping stone and not a monument.

“We still have a ways to go,” he said. “We are young, but that does not mean we will roll over for anybody. We want to wrestle the best, and if we take our lumps, then it will make us better. But I expect everybody to hold their own and if we do, we are going to be a good team.”

Donnie Tasser is a freelance writer.

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