Plum's Hunter Fenk takes down North Hills' Elliot King during the 182-pound match Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, in Plum.
A fifth-place finish at Gateway's season-opening Eastern Area Invitational emboldened Plum enough to help the Mustangs roll through December and the start of January with a perfect dual meet record and a team title from West Mifflin's Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic.
The Allegheny County Wrestling Championships, which begin Friday and continue Saturday at Fox Chapel High School, might provide a similar springboard effect for the Mustangs (10-0) as they ready for the WPIAL Class AAA team postseason, which begins with section tournaments Jan. 22. Plum is certain to finish atop Section 3-AAA subdivision B and will start the playoffs against subdivision A's runner-up.
“At the beginning (of the season), it was just, ‘Let's do our best,' ” said senior heavyweight Steve Turchick, who has an 18-2 record and the No. 2 seed in the county championships. “But when we went to the first tournament, and we had many kids place high, we started saying that we've got a good team. And then when the confidence built up, it became a reality. So it's been a great surprise.”
Turchick is one of several Mustangs seeded in the top five of their respective weight class. His brother, junior Nate Turchick (16-2), is the No. 5 seed at 195 pounds. Senior Hunter Fenk (16-1) is No. 3 at 182. Junior Zach Martin (18-3) is No. 3 at 152. Sophomores Tommy Zummo (17-3) and Anthony Dininno (16-3) are No. 2 at 160 and 106, respectively. Freshman Dom Davido (16-6) is No. 4 at 120. And senior Eric Green (17-3) holds the top spot at 145.
“I saw the kids that are also in my bracket, and it seems like it won't be easy, but I definitely think I can win the title,” said Green, who went 3-2 as a 138-pounder in the tournament last season. “I've tried not to do so many crazy moves and just settle down in matches this year. … I'd always try to do things outside the box, and I'd get myself in trouble.”
The last Mustang to win a county title was John Marotto, who claimed the championship at 138 in 2012. Fenk, a sophomore at the time, spent that season as Marotto's practice partner.
“He had good technique, but being heavy on the head was his big thing,” Fenk said. “I kind of tried to model myself after him. … I definitely feel a lot more confident going into this tournament than I did for Eastern Area or West Mifflin.”
If Green, Fenk and a few others win championships or at least reach the finals, Plum stands a chance to top the county's other frontrunners, North Allegheny, Mt. Lebanon and South Fayette, for the team crown. North Allegheny, which shares Section 3-AAA with Plum but sits in the other subdivision, has six wrestlers seeded in the top five at the tournament, while Mt. Lebanon has five in the top five, and South Fayette, a Class AA team, also has five grapplers in the top five.
Plum has never won a county team title. The Mustangs placed second and had four individual champs in 2002, the tournament's inaugural year. And in 2007, they took third with the help of two title winners.
“It's starting to come around,” Green said of Plum, noting that more teammates now wrestle all year rather than just in the winter. “I had a feeling we were going to do this good. This year, we have so many seniors, and in the past, we always had one or two.”
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