Burrell, Kiski Area wrestlers hit streak of bad luck at PIAA tournament
Burrell wrestlers past and present caution each other to beware of “Mr. Murphy” — a nod to the adage, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
Mr. Murphy was busy with a few Bucs and other wrestlers from neighboring Kiski Area during the PIAA individual championships this past weekend at Giant Center in Hershey.
From a skin condition controversy that caused Burrell senior 126-pounder Dillan Jeffrey to default out of the Class AA tournament to questionable calls that doomed Cavaliers senior Joey Blumer in his 145-pound quarterfinal and blood-round bouts to the familiar and seemingly unavoidable foes who frustrated Bucs senior 182-pounder Anthony Marra and Kiski Area junior heavyweight Isaac Reid, little that happened to PIAA qualifiers from the Alle-Kiski Valley fit the description of fortuitous.
Jeffrey's situation — PIAA officials on Thursday declared him ineligible after its doctors insisted he received an incorrect diagnosis and underwent the wrong treatment — emerged as the first discouraging moment, but it was far from the last. Two opponents Jeffrey beat this season, Reynolds' Gage Bayless and Quaker Valley's John Rocco Kazalas, finished third and sixth in Class AA, respectively.
“It (stinks) we didn't get to see how that would've wrestled itself out,” Burrell coach Josh Shields said.
Shields, however, found positives with his four other state qualifiers, including Marra, who placed seventh.
“He's the only guy I can think of in my entire time coaching that has never been pinned once in his entire career,” Shields said. “That is phenomenal, especially when you look at us going to Powerade, King of the Mountain, the state duals.”
Shields said of junior 120-pounder Trent Bechtold, sophomore 113-pounder Bryan Gaul and freshman 106-pounder, “All put the time in and all are right around the same weight. They all can be practice partners this summer. Their success is going to depend on each other.”
Kiski Area coach Chris Heater framed the results for Reid and junior 126-pounder Noah Levett, who placed sixth, in a similar manner. Reid and Levett put together strong seasons but struggled against a celebrated foe — state champion Brendan Furman of Canon-McMillan in Reid's case and Franklin Regional senior phenom Spencer Lee in Levett's.
“With a new year, you have new problems and new people,” Heater said. “It's hard to say what can come in there.”
Heater said of Levett, “Obviously, it's been a long season, and I think he needs a little bit of time to refresh and heal up. He's talked about needing to gain additional strength and needing to get in the weight room. He's already talked about those things without me talking to him about it.”
Just as Shields concentrated on Marra's resilience and steadfastness in big moments, Heater highlighted those qualities in sophomore 106-pounder Darren Miller, who recovered from a first-round loss to place third.
“That shows a lot about how he's kind of made,” Heater said. “College coaches want to see how somebody can win and move forward, but they want to see how somebody handles dropping down after losing. Do they regroup and continue to take them one at a time and move out? Or do they melt? And he doesn't melt. He's a tough guy. I would not want to be in that consy bracket and look and see his name in the mix down there if I was down there.”
How Blumer ended up in the consolation bracket — a 4-2 overtime loss in the quarterfinals to then-undefeated Bellefonte senior and eventual PIAA finalist Brock Port — bugged the Kiski Area senior and his coach. But how Blumer became eliminated — a 6-4 last-second loss in a third-round consolation bout to Big Spring's Tucker Brough — crossed the line in Heater's book.
“I was very sad for Joe,” Heater said. “I thought his (quarterfinal) match was a quick call. Didn't like it. Didn't agree with it. After six minutes of scrambling, I don't know how you make that quick of a call in overtime. And I thought the call that knocked him out was horrendous, and the explanation of it was even worse.
“He's devastated. He had plans to come here and be in the top four somewhere, which is a fair place for him. How do you handle two bad officiating calls in a row? It's a life lesson. It's one of those things that happens in the course of your life that you don't like and you don't understand. You just simply try to grow from it and move to the next step.”