Connellsville, Southmoreland wrestling teams ready for challenge
The section wrestling championships will take place Wednesday, and plenty is on the line for Connellsville and Southmoreland.
The Falcons (15-4) have an opportunity to win the Section 2-AAA championship and gain a high seed in next week's WPIAL Class AAA team tournament. The Scotties (2-3), can't win the Section 2-AA title, but they do have a shot at qualifying for the WPIAL Class AA team tournament. Southmoreland finished as the third-place team in Section 2-AA (2B) and will host West Greene, the third-place team from Section 2-AA (2A). The winner of this match will earn fifth place in the section and advance to the team playoffs.
“We talked about this at the beginning of the year,” Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said. “Our goal was to make the playoffs. Obviously, we were hoping for a one or two seed, but this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, (our goal) can be obtained by beating West Greene, but we still have everyone coming back (next year). I think we are going in the right direction. I'm excited for our program.”
The Scotties feature a lineup that is strong at the lighter weights, with Cole Lambie (106), Austin Griffiths (113) and Evan Myers (132). Jacob Beistel also gives Southmoreland a good chance for points at heavyweight. However, Beistel (skin irritation) and 160-pounder Brenden Hernley (chest) are questionable for the match against the Pioneers.
West Greene's strength lies at the heavier weights, with Dalton Wildman (182), Will VanNorman (220) and Trevin Bedillion (285).
“I look at our lineup and I look at their lineup, and I think it will be an exciting match,” Shaw said. “I could see each team winning seven bouts, and it coming down to bonus points.”
While the Scotties will wrestle one match for the right to advance to the team playoffs, the Falcons will be taking on two opponents at Peters Township in the Section 2-AAA championship. Connellsville will open against the host team then wrestle Belle Vernon or Mt. Lebanon. Whichever team wins both of its matches will be section champion.
Connellsville is the second-place team from Section 2-AAA (2A), and coach Tommy Dolde knows that winning two matches against quality opponents won't be easy. Connellsville already has lost a section match to Belle Vernon this season, and the Leopards and Peters Township finished higher than Connellsville at the Powerade Tournament in December.
“We learned that they are pretty good,” Dolde said in regards to Belle Vernon. “They were better than I expected, and Peters Township is good. They both beat us at Powerade, so we'll have to overturn some losses. We are underdogs, so we have nothing to lose.”
Connellsville's strongest part of the lineup is at the heavier weights, with Dale Provance (170), Tommy Provance (182), Matt Butler (195) and Gunnar Lynch (220). Tyler Kenney (113) gives the Falcons some stability down low.
Peters Township appears strong in the middle, with Phillip Mary (126), Tyler Buckiso (132), Italo Merante (138) and Sammy Florentino (145).
The Leopards have solid wrestlers throughout their lineup, including Tyler Seliga (113), Brendan Hasson (120), Mitchell Hartman (126), Jarod Verkleeren (145), Derek Verkleeren (152), Austin Bell (160), Milton Kobaly (170) and Patrick Neyernik (220).
Mt. Lebanon is mainly strong at the heavier weights, including Kellan Stout (182), Bakhtiyar Zaynullayev (195) and Zeynul Zaynullayev (285). Sean Perri (138) gives the Blue Devils some strength in the middle.
For the Falcons, turning in a strong effort will be the main focus as they gear up for next week's team playoffs.
“It would be nice to improve on how we have wrestled,” Dolde said. “We have to wrestle Peters Township first. We can't look ahead. We're looking forward to it. It's nice to be in the underdog role.”
Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.