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South Allegheny wrestlers have lofty goals

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 10:57 p.m.

South Allegheny wrestling coach Tony DiGiorgio is adamant when he says its team first and individual second.

That philosophy helped South Allegheny to a third-place finish in its fourth consecutive WPIAL team tournament last month.

Now it's the time to look out for No. 1.

Six South Allegheny wrestlers qualified for the WPIAL Class AA individual wrestling championships starting Friday at Chartiers Valley, and DiGiorgio is expecting more than a handful of his wrestlers to advance to next weekend's Southwest Regional tournament.

“Things are going right as a team, but once we get inside the WPIAL playoffs, we have to win there,” DiGiorgio said. “That is the next step that we have to take.”

Last year, the Gladiators placed only two of seven into the regionals. None advanced to states.

DiGiorgio expects for that to change this year as he brings some strong individuals to the WPIAL championships, including a pair of Section 3-AA champs in sophomores Noah Stoker (113 pounds) and Justo Hernandez (120 pounds).

“I would like to see one of these guys finally punch through and go to states,” DiGiorgio said. “I am dying to see that.”

But finishing in the top seven at the WPIAL tournament is first on the list to get an invite to the regionals next weekend.

Nobody has a better chance than Hernandez. He beat Keystone Oaks' Camden Anderson last week for his second consecutive Section 3-AA title. Hernandez's record is 23-9 this year, and he is 54-19 overall in two years.

“He has a chance to become the winningest wrestler in South Allegheny history,” DiGiorgio said. “He should be at 60 wins this year, and as a sophomore, that's a big deal.”

Phil Sorrentino, a 2007 state champ, is South Allegheny's all-time leader in wins with 115 followed by Buddy Blotzer at 114.

“He has the wins, but that's not the accomplishment that you want,” DiGiorgio said. “You want to win a state championship. The ultimate goal is to get on the podium at states.”

Hernandez is seeded third at 120 pounds and will face South Park freshman Kade Chotiner in the first round.

Stoker is trying to make his first regional and will do so as the third seed at 113 pounds. Stoker (18-8) has a tough draw with top-seeded Austin McDermitt (Burgettstown) and second-seeded Austin Griffiths (Southmoreland) in the class.

Seth Hitchens (29-5) advanced to the regionals this year and likely will make it back this year at 220 pounds.

Also taking part in the tournament are 126-pounder Luke Gaydos (20-11), 138-pounder Cody Jenkins (20-14) and 152-pounder Steve Shriane (13-12).

“The sleeper is Luke Gaydos,” DiGiorgio said. “He is good enough to make it out. But it is not going to be easy for us, that's for sure, because of the draws we got. It is going to be interesting to see these guys wrestle and see where they are.”

Yough qualified seven wrestlers for the Class AA individual championships led by section champion and the third-seeded 220-pounder Thomas Server (28-5).

John Fedorek (106), Zach Charles (113), Teddy Charletta (132), John-Paul Sommers (145), Lucas Richardson (170), Clay Waldron (182) and Jerry Koza (195) will try to advance to next week's Southwest Regional in Johnstown.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib .

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