Will a coaching change at Canon-McMillan slow down the Big Macs? Will the Burrell Buccaneers add an eighth straight WPIAL Class AA team title to their bloated wrestling trophy case? Which returning wrestlers and top newcomers will have that golden shine about them this winter? We preview the 2013-2014 WPIAL Wrestling season with a look at some of the top wrestlers in the district and the MSA Sports Preseason Top Ten in both classifications>
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WPIAL CLASS AAA:
Last season Canon-McMillan once again stole the story lines in AAA, winning a 4th straight WPIAL team tournament championship and a 2nd straight PIAA team tournament championship. To repeat once again, the Big Macs will have their work cut out for them. Not only will Canon-McMillan be without two PIAA Champions in Connor Schram and Cody Wiercioch, they will also be without their leader in Chris Mary, who will step aside this season to spend more time with his family. In to replace Mary will be Jason Cardillo, who served as an assistant at Canon-McMillan year ago.
Even with the changes, Canon-McMillan still has a strong group returning, including PIAA Champion Solomon Chishko, PIAA Runner-up Dalton Macri, and PIAA Qualifier Brendan Price. Their toughest competition will come from Franklin Regional, a team who finished 3rd in the PIAA a year ago and finished as a Runner-up to Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL, losing a hard fought 31-26 match.
Franklin Regional will return a strong team for the 2013-2014 wrestling season. The Panthers will return four PIAA medalists, including Josh Shields, Josh Maruca, Michael Kemerer, and PIAA Champion Tyler Smith. The only notable loss from Franklin Regional's team of a year ago is Luke Fleck, a state qualifier.
In addition to Chisko and Smith, other PIAA Champions to return from the WPIAL include Hempfield's Sam Krivus and Latrobe's Luke Pletcher. Of the 31 WPIAL wrestlers who returned home from Hershey a year ago with a medal, 18 will be returning to add hardware to their shelf.
MSA Sports Preseason Class AAA Top Ten Rankings
1. Franklin Regional Panthers
2. Canon-McMillan Big Macs
3. Latrobe Wildcats
4. North Allegheny Tigers
5. Connellsville Falcons
6. Kiski Area Cavaliers
7. Belle Vernon Leopards
8. Greensburg-Salem Golden Lions
9. Peters Township Indians
10. Hempfield Spartans
WPIAL CLASS AA:
Every year the story seems to be the same, with many folks asking how Burrell could possibly repeat as WPIAL Champions. Yet for the last seven years, the ending to the AA WPIAL Championship story has ended the same, with Burrell claiming gold. The Buccaneers will have their work cut out for them again this year if they hope to add an 8th straight WPIAL Championship.
One of the changes is at the top, where head coach Bud Sines resigned after the season to relocate to Atlanta when his wife took a job opportunity. In his place will be former Buccaneer wrestler Josh Shields, who at Burrell finished with a 147-44 record and was a three time PIAA qualifier and two time PIAA medalist. Shields served as an assistant under Sines last season.
While Burrell will not need to replace a lot of depth, they will need to replace some of their star power. Graduating this past year were PIAA Champion Dakota DesLauriers as well as PIAA 4th place finisher Phillip Marra. Returning for Burrell are PIAA Qualifiers Steven Edwards, John Andrejcik, and Alan Beattie.
If Burrell does fall, the question becomes who will knock them off. South Fayette gave them a very good test last year, losing in the WPIAL Championship 35-30. The Lions lost PIAA Runner-up Seth Carr and PIAA 4th place finisher Michael Fetchet to graduation but will return PIAA medalist Jared Walker as well as PIAA qualifiers Mike Carr and Grant Fetchet. Jefferson-Morgan, the other Section Champion in AA, will also return a strong nucleus. Their only notable loss from last season was PIAA 3rd place finisher Dustin Conti.
Other notable wrestlers returning in AA for the 2013-2014 wrestling season include PIAA Champions Jason Nolf of Kittanning and George Phillippi of Derry. Of the 22 wrestlers who won a medal in Hersey a year ago, 11 of those wrestlers will return with the hope of returning to the medal stand.
MSA Sports Preseason Class AA Top Ten Rankings
1. Burrell Buccaneers
2. Jefferson-Morgan Rockets
3. South Fayette Lions
4. Bentworth Bearcats
5. Burgettstown Blue Devils
6. Kittanning Wildcats
7. Yough Cougars
8. Chartiers-Houston Buccaneers
9. Mount Pleasant Vikings
10. Valley Vikings