Same teams loom for Kittanning wrestling team in section championship
Kittanning's path to a section wrestling title goes through the same teams in the Wildcats' way last year.
The Wildcats will face South Allegheny in one semifinal of the Section 3-AA championship, while defending champ Burrell will square off against Avonworth in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Burrell.
The final and third-place match will be held afterward, and Kittanning hopes the early matches go the same way as last season, when the Wildcats and Bucs beat the same teams, to set up a section title rematch.
“The goal is always to get back to the final and wrestle (Burrell) again,” Kittanning coach Brandon Newill said. “I'm going to be happy if things go well in that first match and we put ourselves back in that position.”
Kittanning won last year's semifinal match against South Allegheny, 51-25, on the Gladiators' home mats. Though this year's match will be at a neutral site for the two, both coaches expect it could be a close matchup this time around.
“We've got a lot of the same guys back, and I have a couple guys who are healthy that didn't wrestle last year,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiGiorgio said. “I think we're definitely going to give them a better match than we did last year.
“Do I think we can win it? I'm optimistic, but I know it would probably be a close win.”
South Allegheny's top wrestler is 220-pound junior Seth Hitchens, who is coming off a third-place finish in the Allegheny County Championships and brings an 18-3 record into the match.
The Gladiators also have strong sophomores in Noah Stoker (120) and Justo Hernandez (126), and they should fill most, if not all, weight classes in the match, which could be an advantage against an injury-riddled Kittanning lineup.
“They're pretty banged up, from what I hear, and if those guys aren't back, that could really help us,” DiGiorgio said. “The trouble is, some of the weights they've been forfeiting are some of our best weights, so we'll see how that works out.”
Kittanning is expected to get a boost from the return of Brody Trumbull, who likely will take the mat at 120 or 126, but the Wildcats still might forfeit two weight classes Wednesday.
That puts more importance on the top Wildcats wrestlers, such as Jason Nolf (145) and Jake Robb (195), tacking on bonus team points with falls or technical falls.
“We're going to be better going into the match. We won't be 100 percent, but giving up 12 (points) instead of 18 helps,” Newill said.
The familiarity between the teams will help both coaches set the lineups they want, and Newill knows getting the right matchups will be crucial to his team's chances to advance to the final.
“I'm familiar with them a bit. We wrestled last year, but when you're a coach in this sport, you have to look ahead and figure out who the matchups are for you,” Newill said. “Shuffling the lineup is just the nature of the sport, and our guys are resilient and good at doing what they have to do to make things happen.”
All four teams in the championship already have a spot in the WPIAL Class AA tournament, and the section championship results will play a large role in seeding teams.
The fifth team from Section 3-AA to advance to the WPIAL tournament will be the winner of the match between Keystone Oaks and Valley, which will be held Wednesday at Valley.