ShareThis Page

Central Catholic enters Allegheny County tournament with different look

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 10:06 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Central Catholic's Kyle Coniker high-fives a member of his team after beating Bishop McDevitt's Zane Black in the 170-pound quarterfinal during Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, at Canon-McMillan High School.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Michael Kemerer wrestles Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph in the 138-pound championship during the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, at Canon-McMillan. Kemerer won 3-2.

One of the largest high school wrestling events in Pennsylvania could have a different look near the top this year.

Central Catholic coach Sunny Abe is hoping that won't be the case at the Allegheny County tournament, set for Friday and Saturday at Fox Chapel.

Much like last year, when Central Catholic finished third behind champion North Allegheny and runner-up Hampton, the tournament will consist of roughly 40 teams competing in around 600 bouts.

Unlike last year, Central Catholic will be without one of its two winners and two of its three second-place finishers.

Back are senior Kyle Coniker, last year's 152-pound winner, and senior Vincenzo Joseph, who lost to North Allegheny's Dom Forys in the 120-pound final. The Vikings will be without runner-ups Justin Alexander and Chris Nuss, who graduated.

The loss that really hurts, though, is that of senior Zach DeLuca, last year's 220-pound winner, who starred as a defensive end on the football field.

“Basically, he decided he's got to pursue his football career in college, so he called me and said he's not interested in competing in wrestling this year,” Abe said. “There's a possibility he may still come back.”

It's clear by Central Catholic's season so far, including losses to Fox Chapel, North Hills and Hampton in Class AAA Section 3-B dual meets, that it doesn't have the same veteran presence as last year.

“Everybody experiences that. Every year we lose somebody, but they get replaced by younger guys,” Abe said. “We are very fortunate to have the kids step up every year. Of course we miss those guys, but what are you gonna do? You've got to move forward.”

Coniker and Joseph are the only Central Catholic wrestlers who are seeded in the tournament.

Coniker is second in the 170-pound group behind Noah Wilps of Chartiers Valley, and Joseph is second in the 138-pound ladder behind South Park's Jake Wentzel.

Both seniors hope to prove themselves in new weight classes.

For the Vikings to stay among the elite teams in the county, they are going to need contributions from someone other than their two stars.

Along with junior Tony Palumbo (145 pounds), Abe is hoping that senior heavyweight Adisa Branch will be one of those guys.

Last year, Branch was knocked out in the first round of the tournament, but his coach expects a different result this time.

“I just don't think it's going to be any issue as far as pressure or anything like that,” Abe said. “He's just going to go out there and do his thing.”

Forys, the top seed at 126 pounds, is looking for his fourth Allegheny County title, while North Hills' Gage Curry (106 pounds), a sophomore, and senior Jonathan Avon (160), seeded third, also are returning champions.

North Hills' Michael Bonsmann (220 pounds) joins Curry as a top seed, and Greg Bulsak (152) joins Wentzel (138) for South Park. Mt. Lebanon has three No. 1 seeds — Kellan Stout (182), Bakhtiyar Zaynullaev (195) and Zeynul Zaynullayev (285).

Other top seeds include McKeesport's Kevin Statler (113), Shaler's Mike Heinl (120), South Fayette's Mike Carr (132), Plum's Eric Green (145) and Pine-Richland's Brendan Burnham (160).

Wrestling begins at 10 a.m. Friday. The finals are at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.