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9 WPIAL wrestlers hope to finish season unbeaten

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Vincenzo Joseph

Central Catholic, Junior

Claim to fame: Joseph (36-3) won the WPIAL Class AAA at 138 pounds Saturday after defeating Franklin Regional's Michael Kemerer, the 2012 champion, 5-2. Joseph, who finished third in the state last season, captured titles at the Chartiers-Houston, Allegheny County and section tournaments this season.

“So far this year, I think I'm doing OK. There are always areas to improve. You can't always keep doing the same thing,” Joseph said. “When it comes to this past weekend (against Kemerer), we have wrestled or practiced together a lot. It could go either way anytime.”

What was your mindset g oin g into the final match?

I was just trying to stay aggressive and not wrestle defensive. I needed to just wrestle my own style.

When do you think you a re mo st effective on the mat?

I'm most effective just wrestling, in general, an aggressive style and not relaxing for a minute. I like to keep applying the pressure on my opponent and, hopefully, trying to score points.

Do you think this year is your best chance to win a state title?

I feel this is my best chance. But I need to take it one match at a time and don't pass anybody up. I need to wrestle everyone the same and not wrestle defensively.

What is different this year than previous years?

I do feel confident this year. In previous years, I have made adjustments going into states. I still need to fix some things this week, and hopefully, they will work.

Who has been the most influential to your wrestling career?

My parents. They are always there for me. They are pushing me to do better. My coaches have always been there for me when I need help.

— Andrew John

Class AAA individuals

106: 1. Devin Brown, Franklin Regional (33-0); 2. Gage Curry, North Hills (35-1); 3. Hunter Baxter, Pine-Richland (32-4).

113: 1. Spencer Lee, Franklin Regional (45-0); 2. Luke Landefeld, North Allegheny (34-8); 3. Doug Gudenburr, Ringgold (27-5).

120: 1. Luke Pletcher, Latrobe (39-0); 2. Brandon Hasson, Belle Vernon (34-8); 3. Kevin Kinyua, Mt. Lebanon (30-5).

126: 1. Dalton Macri, Canon-McMillan (36-2); 2. Sam Krivus, Hempfield (38-3); 3. A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg (35-5).

132: 1. Cameron Coy, Penn-Trafford (35-5); 2. Tyler Smith, Franklin Regional (33-1); 3. Tyler Buckiso, Peters Township (29-4).

138: 1. Vincenzo Joseph, Central Catholic (36-3); 2. Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional (40-2); 3. Joey Alessandro, Hempfield (37-7).

145: 1. Solomon Chishko, Canon-McMillan (23-3); 2. Josh Maruca, Franklin Regional (36-5); 3. Jarod Verkleeren, Belle Vernon (20-4).

152: 1. Josh Shields, Franklin Regional (38-4); 2. Jake Shaffer, Latrobe (33-10); 3. Paul Dunn, Bethel Park (33-9).

160: 1. Austin Bell, Belle Vernon (38-5); 2. Jonathan Avon, North Hills (32-5); 3. Dom Scalise, Latrobe (37-5).

170: 1. Kyle Coniker, Central Catholic (27-3); 2. Noah Wilps, Chartiers Valley (30-2); 3. Devin Fallenstein, Ringgold (30-2).

182: 1. Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe (38-0); 2. Kellan Stout, Mt. Lebanon (33-3); 3. Clay Byerly, North Allegheny (35-8).

195: 1. Cole Macek, Montour (32-0); 2. Drew Phipps, Norwin (23-1); 3. Zach Smith, NA (37-7).

220: 1. Tyler Worthing, Kiski Area (32-1); 2. Dylan Davis, Latrobe (25-8); 3. Fred Mantsch, Hempfield (27-8).

285: 1. Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area (36-1); 2. Zaynel Zaynullayev, Mt. Lebanon (33-4); 3. Stephen Turchick, Plum (32-9).

Class AA individuals

106: 1. Dallas Bulsak, South Park (27-5); 2. Hunter Neely, Bentworth (33-6); 3. Cole Lambie, Southmoreland (35-19).

113: 1. Austin Griffiths, Southmoreland (34-3); 2. Austin McDermitt, Burgettstown (38-3); 3. Brendon Howard, Jefferson-Morgan (35-10).

120: 1. George Phillippi, Derry (37-4); 2. Kody Komara, Freedom (32-9); 3. Jake Rothka, Bentworth (30-12).

126: 1. John Demaske, Jefferson-Morgan (40-0); 2. Patrick Dewitt, Valley (39-2); 3. Stone Kepple, Derry (34-12).

132: 1. Mike Carr, South Fayette (40-0); 2. J.R. Andrejcik, Burrell (29-15); 3. Darion Trimmer, Avonworth (32-15).

138: 1. Jake Wentzel, South Park (36-1); 2. Jason Miller, Jefferson-Morgan (27-3); 3. Richie McGinnis, Chartiers-Houston (35-12).

145: 1. Jason Nolf, Kittanning (40-0); 2. Corey Falleroni, Burrell (38-13); 3. Anthony Welsh, Beth-Center (36-6).

152: 1. Steven Edwards, Burrell (42-4); 2. Andrew Doak, Blairsville (33-4); 3. Grant Fetchet, South Fayette (40-4).

160: 1. Jared Walker, South Fayette (40-1); 2. Nico Brown, Beth-Center (33-14); 3. Ryan Zalar, Jefferson-Morgan (34-8).

170: 1. Bill Bowlen, Jefferson-Morgan (39-4); 2. Derek Hull, Chartiers-Houston (34-9); 3. Lucas Richardson, Yough (27-16).

182: 1. Terrell Fields, Valley (33-1); 2. Scott Thompson, Blairsville (35-2); 3. Dalton Wildman, West Greene (28-6).

195: 1. Marcus Davenport, Valley (36-4); 2. Brad Grinnen, Ellwood City, (33-5); 3. Robert Scherer, Burrell (32-19).

220: 1. Jake Temple, Avella (39-0); 2. Jacob Robb, Kittanning (40-7); 3. Seth Hitchens, South Allegheny (36-9).

285: 1. Allan Beattie, Burrell (40-5); 2. Jake Beistel, Southmoreland (35-4); 3. Ian Wolfe, Jefferson-Morgan (32-11).

Pin leaders

28: Jason Nolf, Kittanning; Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area; Gage Curry, North Hills.

27: Robert West, Trinity; Spencer Lee, F. Reg.

23: Steven Edwards, Burrell; Terrell Fields, Valley; Zeynul Zaynullayez, Mt. Lebanon.

— Paul Schofield

Top high school sports
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 9:39 p.m.

Not all that different from their peers, nine particular WPIAL wrestlers begin the PIAA individual championships Thursday at Hershey's Giant Center with their minds set on attaining round, gold-colored objects at the end of the tournament.

To seize those coveted medals, the nine, unlike the majority of their cohorts, must preserve another round item: the zero in their season records.

Led by two-time PIAA Class AA champion Jason Nolf of Kittanning, nine grapplers from the WPIAL will try to stay perfect as they pursue state titles. There are only 15 unbeaten wrestlers from elsewhere in the PIAA.

Nolf (40-0), a Penn State-bound senior, has a 172-1 career record with his only loss coming in the PIAA semifinals as a sophomore. The others — Avella's Jake Temple (39-0), Franklin Regional's Devin Brown (33-0) and Spencer Lee (45-0), Jefferson-Morgan's John Demaske (40-0), Latrobe's Luke Pletcher (39-0) and Zack Zavatsky (38-0), Montour's Cole Macek (32-0) and South Fayette's Mike Carr (40-0) — hope to finish a high school season undefeated for the first time.

During the past 30 years, more than three unbeaten state champs emerged from the WPIAL just four times (1989, 1990, '95 and '96). The highest total was six in '95.

“There's just dream talent in Western Pennsylvania, and it's really noticeable right now,” said Zavatsky, a four-time PIAA qualifier and two-time placewinner headed to Virginia Tech. “I remember all of us when we were little kids, we didn't know we were in this hot zone for wrestling. But we've grown to realize that we're in the best spot in the country.”

When he arrived at Kittanning as a freshman, Nolf, a standout at the youth level, had an unflappable notion that he would go undefeated on the way to four PIAA titles — nevermind the fact that only four grapplers in state history managed that feat, and only one, 1992 Jefferson-Morgan grad Cary Kolat, did it during an era when wrestlers competed in 30-plus bouts.

“I always believed it,” said Nolf, now a 145-pounder. “I'm still mad that I lost. I had to get over it and get better.”

Closing in on his third undefeated season, Nolf considers his each of his runs comparable.

“It's not that different,” Nolf said. “But when I was a freshman, I was underestimated a little bit.”

Franklin Regional's Lee, a freshman 113-pounder, began his career with the same goal as Nolf — be an undefeated four-time state champ — but a considerably different reputation. Ranked No. 1 among all freshmen in the country by several publications, Lee is 45-0 with 27 pins, 10 technical falls and four major decisions. Only once has he wrestled a full match and not won by at least eight points.

Aside from Nolf, two other unbeatens from the WPIAL are returning state champions. Pletcher, now a sophomore 120-pounder, finished 41-2 last season at 106 on the way to gold. And Brown, a junior 106-pounder who wrestled for Saegertown last season, went 48-1 en route to a Class AA title in the same weight class.

Losses in December as a freshman removed the opportunity for Pletcher to ponder a Kolat-esque career. The lack of setbacks this season, on the other hand, caused bouts of uneasiness.

“At the beginning of the season, (the perfect record) didn't really get to me at all,” Pletcher said. “Toward the end, maybe at sections or a little before that, it started getting to me. … I was wrestling not to lose instead of to win.”

Carr's performance likely ranks as the most improved among the nine. The sophomore 132-pounder reached the PIAA tournament at 120 last season but lost his first two bouts to wrap up a 29-13 campaign.

Echoing a sentiment expressed by several of the others, Carr claims his wins and losses are meaningless if he doesn't end up at the apex of the state medal stand.

“I don't even have a record in my head,” Carr said.

For seniors Demaske (Class AA 126), Temple (Class AA 220), Macek (Class AAA 195) and Zavatsky (Class AAA 182), just one shot at an unblemished season remains.

“(An undefeated record) says dominance,” said Temple, who topped previously unbeaten West Branch junior Reynold Maines last weekend. “It's kind of cool knowing you can go a whole season not losing a match, especially as a senior. ... I don't feel pressured by it at all. But if you're undefeated at this point, you want to stay that way now.' ”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.




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