Connellsville wrestlers ready to face next challenge at WPIAL final
Tough battles in the 2-AAA Sectionals were the first challenge that faced Connellsville wrestlers competing in the individual portion of the 2013-14 season. Seven Falcons met those challenges and earned the right to take the next step on their path to individual success.
Juniors Tyler Kenney (113 pounds, 30 wins, 7 losses), Gaige Cramer (120, 15-13), Matt Butler (195, 26-8) and Gunnar Lynch (220, 20-14) as well as sophomores Bryce Butler (138, 22-12), Tommy Provance (182, 24-8) and Louis Mauro (285, 6-3) finished in the top five at sectionals and will take part in the Class AAA WPIAL/PIAA Southwest Regional championships Thursday through Saturday at Canon-McMillan. The three-day tournament begins with preliminary-round bouts at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“We did a good job at sections,” Connellsville coach Tommy Dolde said. “The kids all wrestled hard, and some of them beat some kids that had beaten them during the year.”
Each of the wrestlers will enter the tournament feeling confident thanks to last week's performance. Kenney, Provance, Lynch and Matt Butler each made it to the sectional championship round. Kenney and Matt Butler came away with section championships, while Provance and Lynch finished as runners-up in their respective weight classes.
“We didn't have four kids seeded first or second, so we wrestled at or above at the sectional,” Dolde said. “So we should have some confidence going into this tournament.”
Matt Butler acknowledged that coming into this tournament as a section champion gives him a little extra boost.
“It will give me a little more confidence going in,” Matt Butler said. “It's going to be tough, but I've trained all year for this.”
Cramer, Bryce Butler and Mauro were the third-, fourth- and fifth-place wrestlers, respectively, in their weight class. All three will have to win a preliminary-round match Thursday to keep their individual seasons alive.
“We really have to go in there with our minds set on that first match,” Cramer said. “We can't look ahead. We have to get through that match and then continue to hope for the best.”
The top three wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the PIAA championships March 6-8 at Giant Center in Hershey.
“Each one of them knows they have to be in the top three,” Dolde said. “You take it one match at a time. If you look ahead, you end up getting beat by somebody you should beat. But if you don't look ahead, you beat somebody that is ranked higher than you.”
In a big tournament with so much at stake, experience can be a valuable commodity. Kenney, Provance and Matt Butler competed in this tournament last season, but none was able to make it through to states. They're hoping that a little more seasoning leads to more positive results.
“We just have to keep our minds in it,” Kenney said, noting that last year, he started strong at 106 but began to struggle. “I like where I am at, and I'm feeling stronger going in this year.”
No matter how many wrestlers advance to states, the experience gained in the coming days should prove valuable for all seven of the underclassmen.
“All seven kids will be back next year, and this is good for the program,” Dolde said. “No matter how well we do this weekend, it will be a positive.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.