When the WPIAL unveiled its wrestling realignment plans for this season, an occurrence that comes every two years, Peters Township found itself in a new section and up against new challenges.
Instead of having to worry about Canon-McMillan, which has won three straight WPIAL team championships and two consecutive state team titles, from Section 4, the Indians had to navigate through the different terrain of Section 2, where Connellsville, winner of seven WPIAL team titles in its history, trawled.
Peters Township would do so with a team that lost seven starters, including Derrick Evanovich, Luke Palamides and Zan Kail.
That’s why the Indians’ performance this season has been such a pleasant surprise. They finished first in sub-section 2A with a 5-0 record and head into tonight’s Section Team Tournament with not only a strong chance to win their first-round match against Belle Vernon but to emerge as the Section 2 champion.
“Our sub-section didn’t change too much,” said Peters Township head coach Jason Carpetta. “They took away Canon-McMillan but put us with Connellsville. So it really didn’t help us that much.”
The Section Team Tournament gets under way for all qualifying teams in a doubleheader tonight in Connellsville – 6 p.m. for the opener and 7:30 p.m. for the title bout. The format is as follows: the first-place team in each sub-section wrestles the second-place team from the opposite sub-section. The winners wrestler for the section title and the losers compete for third place.
Third-place finishers in each sub-section will wrestle for fifth place at various sites. The top five teams in each section qualify for next week’s WPIAL Team Tournament, which begins Monday with pigtail matches. Quarterfinals are Wednesday, semifinals are Friday, Feb. 1., and the championship bouts take place Saturday, Feb. 2.
“We graduated eight seniors and seven of them were starters pretty much for four years,” said Carpetta. “It would be a shot in the arm if we can win some matches. We’ll see what happens (tonight).”
Peters Township has an 11-1 record, the only loss coming to undefeated General McLane over the weekend in the Clearfield Duals. The Indians took advantage of injuries and illness that left a depleted Canon-McMillan team to capture the team title in the Tri-County Athletic Directors Wrestling Tournament two weeks ago and took third in the season-opening Chartiers-Houston Tournament.
Peters Township has gotten strong performances out of lightweights Phil Mary (113, 120), Tyler Buckiso (126), Italo Merante (132) and Devan Evanovich (138). In the upper weights, Mac Mitchell (160), Mac Oberschelp (170) and Lukas Cervenak (Hvy) are enjoying strong seasons. Heading into this past weekend, 15 of the 18 wrestlers on the roster had records of .500 or above.
“Mary, Buckiso and Merante is a nice 1-2-3 punch,” said Carpetta. “Oberschelp has won a handful of (important) matches and was one win away from placing at Powerade.”
Belle Vernon is 8-2 and sports a roster with four wrestlers with 20 or more victories: Brendan Hasson (120), Nate Russo (126), Austion Bell (16) and Adam Nickelson (182). Belle vernon has been forfeiting the 106-pound class.
“We haven’t wrestled Belle Vernon since I came here, and that’s been five years,” said Carpetta. “They are solid from top to bottom. There will be a lot of toss-up matches, so we have to win the toss-up matches.”
If successful against Belle Vernon, Peters Township will wrestle the winner of the Connellsville-Mt. Lebanon match. Connellsville is 5-0 in the sub-section and 15-2 overall.
Other local teams hosting doubleheaders tonight are Canon-McMillan in Section 4-AAA, South Fayette in Section 1-AA and Jefferson-Morgan in Section 2-AA. Avella, West Greene and Waynesburg are hosting fifth-place matches.