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South Allegheny wrestlers shooting for more this season

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

After losing in the first two rounds of the WPIAL playoffs each of the last two seasons, the South Allegheny wrestling team is looking for more this season.

The Gladiators finished fourth in Section 3-AA last season before falling to South Fayette in the playoffs, and coach Anthony DiGiorgio wants to see his team step up once it comes time for the playoffs.

While the team has several goals such as sending a handful of wrestlers to the PIAA Southwest Regional and winning its sub-section, a playoff push is the Gladiators' ultimate goal.

“We need to get our feet wet in these playoffs and start actually winning in these playoffs and that is the benchmark that I need to achieve, to make some noise and become legitimate,” DiGiorgio said.

A team full of talented underclassmen, South Allegheny will look to sophomore 126-pounder Justo Hernandez (31-10 last season) and 220-pound junior Seth Hitchens (28-13) to turn in repeat performances from a year ago. Both advanced to the PIAA Southwest Regional.

“I expect both of them to go even further this year,” DiGiorgio said. “I would hope they would make states.”

The Gladiators may have been able to boast a third regional qualifier last season if it weren't for sophomore Noah Stoker (120 pounds) suffering a broken elbow at the Allegheny County Wrestling Tournament a year ago.

“That's a tough kid,” DiGiorgio said. “He didn't even shed a tear when it (the injury) happened. He was more worried about not being able to finish the year than he was about his elbow being broken. That's a testament to the kind of character he has.”

Despite being just a sophomore, Stoker is being counted upon to provide leadership for the Gladiators as they get set to compete against section foes such as Burrell, Valley, Kittanning and Avonworth.

“He's a born leader on this team,” DiGiorgio said. “If I had 14 of him on my roster I would have a state champion team. He's the guy that shows up for everything, does everything he's asked, never complains and pushes these guys and he's only a sophomore.”

South Allegheny also welcomes freshmen Liam Czerniak (113) and Cody Jenkins (138), who both will be counted on to contribute.

DiGiorgio said focus and toughness will be two keys to success this year, two qualities another underclassman showed in the team's opening match against Carrick.

Freshman Alyssa Kennedy, wrestling at 106 pounds, earned a pin in the first period of her match to help the Gladiators to a 46-21 victory.

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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