When the high school wrestling season began in December, Derry coach Mike Weinell had no idea what to expect from his team.
Since the days when four-time PIAA champion Jimmy Gulibon (2009-12) and PIAA champion Travis Shaffer (2008-11) roamed the mats, Derry has been in a rebuilding mode.
Finishing first in WPIAL Class AA Section 2B was a surprise for Weinell, and now Derry (10-1) will host the Section 2-AA team tournament Wednesday.
The other teams hosting are: Latrobe (Section 1-AAA), Peters Township (2-AAA), Plum (3-AAA), Montour (4-AAA), Burgettstown (1-AA) and Burrell (3-AA).
The top four teams in each section already have qualified for the WPIAL team tournament, which begins Monday with opening-round matches. Fifth-place matches in each section will determine the other playoff qualifiers.
Derry, which suffered its lone loss to Class AAA No. 2-ranked Latrobe, will wrestle Bentworth, the second-place team from Section 2A. Yough, which finished second to Derry, will face Section 2A champ Jefferson-Morgan. Both matches are set for 6 p.m. The winners will meet at 7:30 p.m., while the two losers will meet for third place.
“We had a full lineup to start the season, but we were inexperienced,” Weinell said. “I'm definitely pleased how we wrestled.
“George (Phillippi) and Stone (Kepple) both did a nice job, and Joe (Kelly) and Jarrett (Dorazio) wrestled well. Getting Cole Wano back on the team was a big help.”
Weinell said Wano (9-4) took a few seasons off, but said the sophomore is back having fun again.
Phillippi (20-4), the returning PIAA Class AA 113-pound champ, is having another solid season. He's ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL by Trib Total Media at 120 pounds and in the state by Off The Mat.
Kepple is 19-5 at 126 pounds. Kelly is 11-7 at 182, and Dorazio is 15-7 at 160.
“We match up well against Bentworth (4-1), and hopefully we can pull it out,” Weinell said. “Their best wrestlers match up against ours. I'd like to make the section finals, and I believe we can if we wrestle well.”
Yough's first-round matchup is a lot tougher. The Cougars (6-1) will face No. 3-ranked Jefferson-Morgan (10-2), which features a strong lineup led by Brendan Howard (18-3) at 113, John Demaske (21-0) at 132, Jason Miller (17-1) at 138, Ryan Zalar (17-1) at 160, Bill Bowlen (21-3) at 170 and Ian Wolfe (18-4) at 285.
The Cougars' top wrestlers include Cody Charles (10-8) at 120, Teddy Charletta (12-4) at 132, Lucas Richardson (12-8) at 170, Clay Waldron (13-8) at 182 and Tom Sever (16-4) at 220.
Top teams at Latrobe
Wednesday's Section 1-AAA tournament will feature the top two ranked teams in the WPIAL, along with two more in the top 10.
Latrobe (8-0), ranked No. 2, will host No. 5 Kiski Area (13-1) at 6, while No. 1 Franklin Regional (8-1) tangles with No. 8 Hempfield (4-1).
All four likely are to be seeded high for next week's WPIAL tournament.
“Our section might be the best in the entire state,” Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine said.
Latrobe coach Tad Harbert said he's glad his team is at home.
“Kiski Area is very talented and I know it will be ready,” Harbert said. “It should be exciting.”
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