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West Mifflin wrestling coach finds positives in 12th-place finish

| Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, 10:27 p.m.

On the surface, the West Mifflin wrestling team's 12th-place finish at the Steve DeAugustino Classic might come across as a bit of a disappointment.

A further look, however, shows plenty of positive signs for the tournament's host team, one that was missing three wrestlers, including two of its best.

Missing from the Titans lineup because of illness and injury were 145-pounder Austin Bonacci, heavyweight Shawn Devey and Randy Wilson. But West Mifflin coach Tony Salopek was pleased with his team's effort in the tournament where Plum was crowned as the champions.

“The three that we were missing kind of hurt us, and if all of our guys that wrestled had similar results and we would've had those three guys, we probably would have finished real close to the top six, if not in the top six,” he said. “The guys that wrestled, they really did their job.”

West Mifflin's best individual finisher was senior Carter Shar (138) who came in fourth place after losing to Yough's Jason Strange in a 2-1 decision in the third-place match.

Shar, a four-year starter, showed signs of improvement earlier in the tournament when he defeated Upper St. Clair's Garrett Walnoha, an opponent who had beaten him several times.

“He's always been pretty solid, but he's starting right now to get over the hump, where he's starting to beat some kids he's lost to in the past,” Salopek said.

At 120, Titans senior Jeff Martinez scored an impressive 4-2 decision over top-seeded Cody Charles of Yough on his way to finishing eighth.

Martinez, in his first season as starter after backing up some of West Mifflin's top wrestlers in the past, is making the most of his opportunities as a senior.

“He is really coming around nicely,” Salopek said. “He's starting to put things together in those matches that he's getting. ... I think, as the season goes on and he gets more varsity matches under his belt, he's just going to keep getting better.”

According to Salopek, who cited that his team has struggled with depth in years past, the weekend also was encouraging as his team filled 12 of 14 weight classes despite missing three starters.

“A couple of our kids who would have been backups who wouldn't even have been wrestling in the tournament ended up winning a match or two,” he said. “We're not where we want to be but we're starting to have a little bit of depth.”

Sitting at 0-2 in WPIAL Section 2-AAA, West Mifflin, who finished the tournament with 77 points, is looking to build on the momentum it built in the tournament as section play continues this week.

“We're going in the right direction,” Salopek said. “It's just a matter of putting it all together here.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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