Connellsville's Provance, Kenney advance at WPIAL wrestling championships
Connellsville sophomore 182-pounder Tommy Provance wanted the Falcons' three big boys to make a sizable statement on the opening night of the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA Southwest Regional Wrestling Championship.
Alas, only Provance delivered the kind of performance he had in mind for the trio.
Of Connellsville's six WPIAL tournament qualifiers, only Provance and junior Tyler Kenney, the No. 3 seed at 113 pounds, advanced past the first round Thursday night at Canon-McMillan.
The quarterfinals begin at 6 p.m. Friday. Provance (25-8) will wrestle No. 4 seed Ryan Hannon (32-4) of Butler, while Kenney (31-7) will meet Greensburg Salem's Chris Eddins (29-8).
Provance, junior 195-pounder Matt Butler and junior 220-pounder Gunnar Lynch each earned berths in the WPIAL championships after reaching the finals of the Section 2-AAA tournament. Butler won a section title, while Provance and Lynch placed second.
“Having those guys at practice with me, it's a big boost to my confidence when I go out and wrestle a match,” said Provance, who beat Plum's Hunter Fenk, 4-3, on Thursday in his only bout of the evening.
Butler lost by pin in the first round, and Lynch also ended up on his back. Both will begin Friday in the consolation bracket.
“These kids are real strong out here,” Provance said of the tournament's quality. “It's a different ballgame than just wrestling all these section matches. These kids know this could be the end of it, so they're coming out here mean.”
Kenney encountered a curveball just before the start of the pigtail-round bouts, as the 113-pound bracket underwent considerable change due to multiple scratches, among them No. 4 seed Ethan McCoy of Latrobe.
“My quarterfinal, it was supposed to be (Ringgold's Doug) Gudenburr, and now I have (Greensburg Salem's Chris) Eddins,” said Kenney, who beat Gudenburr, 3-0, in the Section 2-AAA finals last week. “But you've just got to wrestle whoever and take it to him.”
Kenney, who reached the 106-pound semifinals and came up short of a spot in the third-place bout as a sophomore, didn't mind the absence of McCoy in the field.
“You're a competitor, and with McCoy out, it helps everyone else a little, I guess,” he said.
However, Kenney understood after last season's tournament experience that getting caught up in potential matchups further ahead in the bracket is a dangerous preoccupation.
“I learned that I need to keep my head and wrestle one match at a time,” said Kenney, who last year lost to eventual champ Luke Pletcher in the semifinals. “(In the consolation bracket), I was trying to figure out who I'd have, and that just threw me all out of whack. You've just go to wrestle who you have to wrestle.”
Connellsville junior 120-pounder Gaige Cramer and sophomore 138-pounder Bryce Butler will start in consolation brackets after losing first-round bouts. Both Cram and Butler opened Thursday with pigtail-round wins.