North Allegheny wrestlers certainly have their work cut out for them.
After reaching the PIAA Class AAA tournament the past two seasons, it was clear from the start what this season's goal would be.
“We always talk about individual and team goals, and that was a team goal, to go to states for the third year in a row,” coach Jamie Kyriazis said. “One thing I think this team does is not take it for granted that just because we qualified for states last year, we're going to qualify again this year. Once you taste that success, you're going to want to go after it.”
The Tigers are 4-0 overall and lead Class AAA, Section 3-A at 3-0, with wins over Seneca Valley, 55-9, Knoch, 67-10, and Butler, 46-16.
The real tests will come in the WPIAL tournament against teams like Latrobe, Canon-McMillan and top-ranked Franklin Regional.
For North Allegheny — or anyone else in the WPIAL — to overcome the odds and defeat Franklin Regional, just about everything would have to align, Kyriazis said.
This year, not only does a run at a WPIAL title seem more difficult, but returning to states will be a challenge. Kiski Area, Connellsville and Peters Township also have a shot at states.
“You want to win,” said Kyriazis, whose team lost to Franklin Regional, 28-27, in the WPIAL semifinals last year before defeating Kiski Area, 44-20, in the consolation match.
“Obviously, you want to say that you want to win a WPIAL title, but you also have your sight on the fact that the top three teams go to states, and there are probably six teams making a run at it.
“Obviously, you have some very good teams staying at home.”
If the Tigers reach their goal, it will have a lot to do with underclassmen contributions, particularly the freshmen.
“We knew the freshman class coming up was going to be strong,” said senior Scotty Stossel, who is 11-2 at 120 pounds. “Nothing was really a big surprise. They're just a bunch of hard workers.”
Whether the team is with them, Stossel and fellow senior Dom Forys have their sights set on a trip to states as individuals.
Forys is now 17-2 this year and has a chance to break Rob Waltko's school wins record of 150. He enters this week's action with a career record of 138-19.
After placing fifth last year and third as a sophomore, Forys is hoping for nothing less than a PIAA title at 126 pounds.
Although Stossel has yet to reach the state tournament, moving from 106 to 120 pounds has led to his best season yet.
“I feel more confident than ever at my weight,” Stossel said. “Last year, I was always tired trying to make 106. This year, I'm still counting my weight, but not as much, and I feel great when I wrestle.”
Other Tigers with double-digit victories include junior Clay Byerly (11-4 at 182), freshman Luke Landefeld (11-4 at 113) and junior Zach Smith (12-4 at 195).
In addition to Landefeld, freshmen Will Baierl (132), AJ Boeh (132), Jake Hinkson (132), Zack Stedeford (106), Sean Hoover and Jake Woodley (160) have contributed.
North Allegheny was at its best over the holiday break, when it won the Manheim Tournament, edging Kiski Area, 179-169.5.
Stossel and Forys each took first place, and Landefeld, Boeh, Blynn Shideler (152), Colton Byerly (170), Clay Byerly, Zach Smith (195) and Layne Skundrich (220) were top-six medalists.
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