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Eastern Area wrestling tournament a big start to wrestling season

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

For 20 high school wrestling teams, including Gateway and Plum, the journey through the 2013-14 season kicks off this weekend at the 36th annual Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament.

“Every year, the tournament is challenging and a great barometer for each team,” Gateway head coach R.J. Santilli said.

The teams will test their mettle Friday and Saturday.

Returning to the tournament are Allderdice, Belle Vernon, Bethel Park, Blackhawk, the host Gators, Jefferson-Morgan, Kiski Area, Kittanning, McKeesport, North Allegheny, Norwin, Penn Hills, Penn-Trafford, Plum, West Mifflin and Woodland Hills.

Montour, Forest Hills and Pine-Richland didn't return after competing last year, but Burgettstown, Kiski School and Yough are new participants.

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic is in the mix this year. The Trojans initially were scheduled to compete last year, but they had to back out.

Five wrestlers will try to claim EAIWT titles this year after capturing gold at the 2012 tournament.

Hoping to be victorious again are Jefferson-Morgan sophomore Brendan Howard (106 last year), North Allegheny seniors Dom Forys (120 last year) and Jesse Rodgers (138 last year), Kittanning senior and Penn State recruit Jason Nolf (132 last year) and Kiski Area junior Shane Kuhn (heavyweight last year).

Nolf (AA, 132) and Kuhn (AAA, heavyweight) went on to claim WPIAL championships, as did Burgettstown junior Austin McDermitt (AA, 106).

“At the end of the season, you look back at the tournament's place winners, and many of them have gone on to claim section titles, are competing for medals at WPIALs and are in the mix at states,” Santilli said.

“A lot of the teams also go on to do well in the section and WPIAL team playoffs.”

Kiski Area is gunning for its fifth consecutive EAIWT team title. The Cavaliers had 10 top-six medalists last year, including three champions

“Kiski always is strong and consistent, and North Allegheny will bring a strong team. I expect they will push Kiski for the team title this year. You always know that Norwin, Penn-Trafford and Plum will be right there in the team standings. They are always competitive, and they bring a nice local flair to the tournament.”

Kittanning was second last year, and the Wildcats had 10 place winners overall, led by Nolf.

Norwin finished third in 2012, while Penn-Trafford was fifth, and Plum took seventh.

The Mustangs had six medalists last year, and five of them are back.

Graduate Jake DiGuilio was third at 220, and seniors Andy McRandal (third at 170), Eric Green (fourth at 138) and Zeke Bonura (sixth at 160) took home medals.

Also earning medals were junior Ronny Amato and sophomore Tommy Zummo, fifth at 120 and 126, respectively.

“The guys are ready to go,” Plum head coach Mike Supak said.

“This tournament has a good group of teams with talented wrestlers. It's a good way to evaluate. They are ready to get in there and see what they can do.”

Grad A.J. Wilkins (second at 126) and senior Austin Davidson (sixth at 170) were Gateway's two EAIWT medalists last year.

“It's going to be competitive, and that's what everybody wants,” Santilli said.

Practices are one thing, and scrimmages are another, but every team wants to get that live competition.”

Action gets started Friday with preliminaries at 4:30 p.m., followed by the first round of consolations at 8:30 and the quarterfinals at 9:30.

The second round of consolations kicks off Saturday action at 10 a.m.

The semifinals and third round of consolations will be at 11:30, and the consolation semifinals will be at 2 p.m. with the consolation finals at 5.

The Parade of Champions and championship finals will be at 6:15.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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