Smooleck, Datz put unbeaten records on the line
Deacon Smolleck of Greensburg Central Catholic and Shane Datz of Southmoreland put their undefeated records on the line Saturday when the WPIAL Individual championships begin in Class AA at three sites.
Smolleck, at 24-0, will be competing at 145 pounds, and Datz, at 23-0, will be at 189. Both are ranked No. 1 in the Tribune-Review rankings and are among the elite wrestlers from Section 1. The tournament will be held at Yough High School, Herminie.
Smolleck is a returning section champion along with Larry Hall of Jeannette at 103, Joe Makara of Burrell at 119, Dave Saadeh of Elderton at 135, Jared Shields of Burrell at 135, Josh Peterson of Southmoreland at 145, and Brian Hall of Yough at 189.
The Section 2 tournament will be held at Burgettstown High School and the Section 3 tournament at West Greene High School, Rogersville.
Action begins at 10 a.m. with the top three wrestlers in each weight class advancing to the WPIAL Championship Feb. 23 at Charleroi High School.
The Class AAA individual tournaments will be Feb. 23 at six sites: Section 1 at Norwin High School; Section 2 at Connellsville Area High School; Section 3 at Shaler Area High School; Section 4 at Gateway High School, Monroeville; Section 5 at McGuffey High School, Claysville; and Section 6 at Trinity High School, Washington.
The top three wrestlers advance to the finals Feb. 28 and March 1-2 at Ringgold High School.
BACK IN A GROOVE: It has taken almost another season for Belle Vernon Area senior John Jolley to find his groove.
Jolley, who miss his junior season while recovering from a knee injury, finally looked himself Monday in a match against Brian Sticca of Greensburg Salem.
Jolley used a late takedown to defeat Sticca 3-2.
"It took a long time to get it back to where it's instinct," Jolley said. "(Monday) was the first time a felt it flow again."
Jolley was back on track in January when a neck injury pushed him back. After missing a couple of weeks and the Westmoreland County Coaches' Association tournament, Jolley worked hard to get back in shape.
"Until the neck injury, I was right where I wanted to be," Jolley said. "I basically had to start all over again. I've been looking forward to the match against Brian. Win or lose, both of us got something out of the match."
The Jolley-Sticca match had plenty of action for six minutes. Both wrestlers were able to counter moves with a flurry of action.
"I found out that my knee is in good shape," Jolley said. "Brian had it wrapped around his back once or twice. I knew it would be a hard-fought, six-minute. It's the type of match you want right before the individual tournaments begin."
EXTENDING A HAND: Some former WPIAL wrestling coaches have formed a group to help the sport.
The group is known as Wrestling Coaches Out Of Work And Not Looking. The WCOWANL is looking for ways to revive the sport, which at times struggles to field all the weight classes.
The president of the group is former West Greene coach Buzz Walters. The vice-president is Lee Hall, secretary is Dick Caputo and treasurer is Ed DeWitt. Others involved include Warren Scott, Lou Dykstra, Joe Ayersman, Lee Goozdich, Tom Scimrock and Bill Gardner.
"We feel with our experience, we could come up with different ideas to help wrestling programs," Walters said. "We're looking to peak the interest, and the way you do that is through history."
The group helped the Beth-Center School District organize a wrestling hall of fame at the school, and other schools are looking to do the same.
They also have volunteered their time to help at tournaments and even help run practices.
"We're hoping to build up programs again," Walters said.
Anyone interested in more information should contact Walters at either (724) 499-5348 or (724) 499-5332.
Paul Schofield covers high school wrestling for the Tribune-Review.