Southmoreland, Washington lead the field at Charleroi By Paul Schofield
CLASS AA What: WPIAL finals
When: 5 p.m., today
Where: Charleroi High School
Objective: Top four wrestlers advance to Southwest Regional at Pitt-Johnstown.
Radio: WANB-FM (103.1)
Southmoreland had its team wrestling championship dream ruined by West Greene in the semifinals of the WPIAL Class AA tournament. But as the WPIAL Class AA individual tournament begins 5 p.m. today at Charleroi High School, the Scotties are a team on a mission - they won't mind winning a state title tonight.
Southmoreland Coach Jon Banko says he doesn't know what to expect from his team. "We're capable of taking eight or nine wrestlers to Johnstown if we wrestle well," Banko said. "Then again, we might only take two or three. We'll see who is ready to go."
Last year, the Scotties advanced five wrestlers to the regional, including two champions - Jeremy Bowman (135) and Luke Kaylor (130). Bowman, who wrestles at Washington & Jefferson, won a regional title.
Luke Kaylor and Brad Yoder (112), who both qualified for the PIAA championships at Hershey, heads the list of Scotties that advanced to the regional. Mark Farrell (125) and Steve Kaylor (135) also qualified. Other Scotties expected to do well are Tony Beal (103), Shawn Depta (140), Andy Buchta (145) and Tony May (171).
"I've had high hopes all year for this team," Banko said. "There is no reason why we can't do well this weekend and win the Southwest Regional next week. These guys have to realize you can't let up against anyone. You have to turn it out from the start."
Team champion Washington also expects to perform well. The Prexies return two WPIAL champions - Dan Kosek (103) and Sean Thomas (140). Matt Lopresti placed second at 125 last year and Scott Belcastro finished third at 145. Other champions returning are Chartiers-Houston's Erick Glass (112), West Greene's Shawn Whyte (119) and Burrell's Bock White (171). Beth-Center's Randy Mort won the 130-title in 1996.
Whyte, a three-time WPIAL champion, was a regional champion at 119 in 1996. He placed third last at 119 at the PIAA championships. Laurel's Mike Weaver (11-1) at 160, a two-time Southwest Regional champion, and Jeannette freshman Matt Lebe (21-2) at 152 are among the list of top wrestlers in the tournament. Others are Beth-Center's Ulysses Davis (103), Carlynton's Dan Butera (112), Burgettstown's Eric Ryan (130), Chartiers-Houston's Cory Shaw (160), a PIAA qualifier in 1996, and Fort Cherry's Tim Bennett (275), a PIAA qualifier last year.
CITY LEAGUE ACTION
The City League wrestling championships will get underway at 4 p.m. today with preliminary and first-round matches at Carrick High School.
The action will continue Saturday at 10 a.m. with consolation finals. Championship matches will begin at noon.
The City League champion and runner-up in each weight class will advance to the PIAA Southwest Regional Feb. 27-28 at Chartiers Valley High School.
Butera (26-0) is the only undefeated wrestler in the WPIAL in Class AA.
Action resumes Saturday at 11 a.m. The finals are set to begin following the consolations for third place, which start at 6:30 p.m. The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the Southwest Regional Feb. 27 and 28 at Pitt-Johnstown to compete against wrestlers from Districts 5 and 6.
The Class AAA section tournaments begin 5:30 p.m. today at five district sites - Norwin (Section 1), Connellsville (Section 2), Seneca Valley (Section 3), Kiski Area (Section 4) and Trinity (Section 5).
The top three wrestlers in each weight class advance to the Southwest Regional at Chartiers Valley High School, Feb. 27-28.
Saturday's action resumes at 11:30 a.m. with the semifinals. The finals are slated for 7:30 p.m.