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Carlynton's McKissick making the most of his senior season on the mat

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 12:36 p.m.

Carlynton's Freddie McKissick knows what is on the line this season — get a taste of Hershey now or never.

“I only get one more shot,” McKissick said. “This is it.”

The 182-pound senior — ranked No. 1 in his weight class in Class AA by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — is off to a 6-0 start after a strong 2012-13 season.

As a junior, McKissick won the Section 1-AA 182-pound tournament before finishing fourth in the WPIAL and ending his season at the Class AA Southwest Regional. He finished the campaign with a 22-7 record.

McKissick said getting a taste of success last season motivated him to work harder heading into this season.

“It pushed me to do even better,” McKissick said. “I am going out there giving it my all every match. I worked hard in the offseason and now in the wrestling room. Going far isn't easy. You need to put a lot of work in. I have been giving 110 percent every day.”

Being a senior, McKissick's greatest asset is his maturity. Instead of trying to match what his opponent does, he knows how to stay within his comfort zone

“He sticks to his match and doesn't do anything he can't do,” Valentine said. “He is a really strong kid. If he is wrestling someone who is super fast, he doesn't try to match them with speed. He will try to grab a hold of them and stay in his match. He doesn't try to do stuff that will hurt himself.”

His maturity also helps him stay focused. While a younger athlete might crack under the pressure of living up to past performances, McKissick maintains perspective.

“I am expected to make it back to where I was last year,” said McKissick, who has wrestled since he was 6 years old. “I just go out and do what I do every match.”

McKissick will get a chance to show his ability on the big stage at this weekend's Allegheny County Wrestling Tournament at Fox Chapel. Not only will McKissick — the No. 2 seed at 182 pounds — compete against some of the best wrestlers Class AA has to offer but Class AAA, as well.

“I am expecting to see some really good competition,” McKissick said. “That always helps make you better. There is nothing I can do but go out and try my hardest.”

Other Carlynton wrestlers with high seeds at the tournament include freshman Logan Witwicki at No. 10 at 132 pounds and junior Dale Rybacki at No. 9 at 195 pounds.

In addition to the tournament this week, McKissick was scheduled to wrestle in Carlynton's meets against South Park on Wednesday— results were unavailable at press time — and South Fayette, today, Thursday.

Valentine said the spike in competition will show McKissick where he is and where he needs to improve.

“Our goal as a team is to always do better, and it isn't any different for (McKissick),” Valentine said. “The competition this week will be the best he faced. Not to take away from who he has wrestled, but this is a giant step up.”

And after he gets through the tough week, he will be one step closer to reaching his No. 1 goal — to become the first Carlynton wrestler to make it to Hershey since Montana Trombetta in 2011.

“My ultimate goal is to qualify for the state tournament,” McKissick said. “It is my last shot to do it.”

Carlynton's home meet with South Fayette — the No. 1 team in the Tribune-Review's team wrestling rankings — is at 7:30 tonight, Thursday.

McKissick and the Cougars will wrestle in the Allegheny County Tournament Friday and Saturday at Fox Chapel.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib

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