Despite loss, future bright for McKeesport wrestling team
The chance to go against elite WPIAL wrestling schools is daunting yet welcome to McKeesport's underdog program, say the Tigers, who faced one of those powerhouses Wednesday night at Franklin Regional.
McKeesport entered the match needing to win once more in Class AAA Section 1-A to qualify for the WPIAL team tournament for just the second time, but a 70-6 loss to the top-ranked Panthers ended its hopes.
McKeesport (5-3, 2-1) has back-to-back section matches at home Tuesday against Woodland Hills and Wednesday against No. 5 Kiski Area in its remaining chances to qualify.
“These guys aren't dumb. They knew what they were going into,” McKeesport coach Adam Alfer said. “They know that Franklin has state championship-caliber wrestlers and nationally ranked wrestlers. I tell them to go out and give everything they've got. They know what it's like to compete.”
If not for senior Izure Peters-Masse's quick and decisive pin of Franklin Regional's Zack West at 145 pounds, McKeesport would've been shut out.
Peters-Masse surprised West with a cradle and ended the match in 1 minute, 25 seconds.
“It's got to be more motivation for the other kids,” said Peters-Masse, one of just three seniors at McKeesport. “We're a young team.”
Alfer spends his days with the McKeesport Police Department as a detective and his evenings with the McKeesport wrestling team. His passion is unmatched, he said, in both arenas.
Now in his fifth season as Tigers coach, the McKeesport native who, himself, wrestled in the district during his high school days insisted that the program is on the upswing.
He began simply by pointing out an increase in interest by the student body.
“I've put together a good coaching staff,” Alfer said. “The numbers are pretty good, with 26 kids on the varsity roster and between 25 and 30 junior high wrestlers. When we started here, there were only six kids left over from the previous year. We managed to pick up a couple and put together a team.”
But the results were less than favorable. Even now, team members say there's so much room to grow.
“We have a way to go,” McKeesport 120-pound junior Kevin Stalter said. “Wrestling has not been a very big sport here.”
But with improved records comes more interest.
“People are starting to recognize us a little more,” said Stalter, who followed a victory at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic at West Mifflin on Dec. 27 with a loss to Gus Solomon of Franklin Regional, who registered a pin in 2:56.
“Kids are asking about us. Teachers are telling us they're definitely going to go to a match,” Stalter said.
It is, he stressed, an encouraging sign.
With a roster heavy with underclassmen, interest in McKeesport could become routine at a place where football and basketball has enjoyed much of the school's success in sports.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.