Bruce's Tidbits: Wrestlers in pursuit of gold
Next weekend, the PIAA High School Wresting championships will be contested at Hersheypark.
Wrestling gold as opposed to sweet chocolate will be the goal as the survivors of this weekend's regionals move to the big show.
Following are the wrestlers who have won four Class AAA or AA state titles. Four-time state champs include James Conklin of Waynesburg (1940-41-42-43), Jerry Maurey of Clearfield (1947-48-49-50), Mike Johnson of Lock Haven (1958-59-60-61), Matt Gerhard of Catasauqua (1981-82-83-84-AA), Ty Moore of North Allegheny (1987-88-89-90), John Hughes of Benton (1988-89-90-91-AA), Cary Kolat of Jefferson Morgan (1989-90-91-92-AA), Bob Crawford of Milton (1990-91-92-93) and Jeremy Hunter of McGuffey (1993-94-95-96).
A total of 23 wrestlers have won three state titles, the most recent being Justin Nestor of Reynolds Area (Class AA) last March.
EISLEY FINISHES AT JHU
<*L> Former Belle Vernon all-state basketball player Matt Eisley recently concluded his collegiate career at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Eisley missed five of the Blue Jays' first 10 games due to injury but finished as the team's second-leading scorer and was tied for first in rebounding. The 1996 and 1997 Mon Valley United Way Shootout tourney MVP averaged 10.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game along with 20 steals and a team-high 25 blocks. He shot 57.1 percent from the floor, converting 76 of 133 attempts. Eisley converted 49 of 72 foul shots (68.1 percent).
Eisley helped Johns Hopkins compile a second straight 15-9 overall record. The Blue Jays were 9-4 in the Centennial conference.
RUSSELL PUSHES ON
Stephen V. Russell, principal of Bellmar Middle School and noted Mon Valley sports historian, continues to supply interesting information to this column.
He recently reminded this sports desk that his brother, Jim Russell, has done a consistent if somewhat unnoticed job as head coach of the Belle Vernon Area baseball team.
Beginning his eighth season at BVA, Jim Russell has compiled an impressive .696 winning percentage with a 85-37 cumulative record at BVA since 1995.
His Leopard teams will strive for a fourth straight post-season appearance this spring. The Leopards' 13-2 record last season earned Russell his first section title. Over the past three seasons, BVA has compiled a 46-12 (.793) cumulative record. Russell has achieved six winning seasons and one non-losing season heading into 2002.
LUKO DOES WELL
If all goes as planned, Monessen High School's boys basketball team possibly successfully defended its WPIAL Class A championship this weekend at Duquesne's Palumbo Center.
A Greyhound repeat would also propel California Area High School's boys basketball team into the PIAA state tourney for the first time since 1982.
Coached by first-year leader Steve Luko, the Trojans finished 13-12 overall and advanced to the WPIAL playoffs for the third time in four years.
California won its first WPIAL playoff game since 1982 when the Trojans beat Union in an opening round game. Last weekend, California lost a well played 59-55 WPIAL quarterfinal game to heavily favored Monessen.
"Steve did a very good job this season," said California athletic director Don Martin, who coached the Trojan boys hoop team from 1995-96 through 1999-2000. "He came in and took control right away and worked well with the kids. He knew basically all of our players because he coached them in junior high. They played a great game against Monessen."
Whether or not California does move on to the state tourney, the Trojans should again be a legitimate post-season contender in 2002-2003.
California loses just one starter, Mike Hollowood, from this year's team.