If a sport is being played at McGuffey, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see Brent Blacharczyk involved in some way, fashion or form.
A three-sport star for the Highlanders, Blacharczyk excels at football, baseball and wrestling.
But it’s wrestling that drives him.
And heading into his final weeks of his senior season, Blacharczyk has been propelled by his desire to earn a trip to the PIAA Wrestling Championships in Hershey.
He’ll get a final shot this weekend at Norwin High School in the WPIAL Class AAA Championships, which run today through Saturday. First-round action begins at 5:30 p.m. Quarterfinals are at 5:30 p.m. Friday, semifinals are at noon Saturday and finals are at 7:30 p.m.
Blacharczyk, who captured a Section 4-AAA title – his first – last weekend at Moon, is seeded fourth at 182 pounds, despite a sparkling 24-4 record. Belle Vernon’s Adam Nickelson (34-1), North Allegheny’s Alex DeCiantis (28-2) and Norwin freshman Drew Phipps (32-5) are seeded one through three, respectively, in the weight class.
Nickelson was a WPIAL finalist at 170 pounds and eighth-place finisher in the PIAA tournament a year ago. DeCiantis finished third at 170, losing to Nickelson in the WPIAL semifinals. Phipps beat Blacharczyk, 4-2, at Powerade, finishing fourth there while Blacharczyk had to settle for sixth place.
Only the top three placewinners at the WPIAL tournament, which doubles as the Southwest Region qualifier, advance to the PIAA Championships, so somebody is going home disappointed.
“There are four tough kids in the WPIAL, and I think all four of us have a good shot to win it,” said Blacharczyk, who went 1-2 at the WPIAL tournament at 160 pounds a year ago. “I hope to get some revenge on a kid from Norwin who beat me earlier. I had just come back off of a shoulder injury and was still a little bit out of shape, so I’m looking forward to seeing him again. I’m just looking forward to getting in there again.”
Three of Blacharczyk’s four losses this season came at Powerade when he was still working his way into shape after a shoulder injury suffered early in wrestling practice. His other loss came to Jefferson-Morgan’s Dustin Conti at the Tri-County Tournament, but he’s mowed down the competition since and sits with a 94-41 record heading into the weekend.
“He missed four or five matches because of (the shoulder injury), but he fought through it and came back,” said McGuffey coach Mark Caffrey. “He had those three close losses at Powerade and the loss to Conti in overtime.
“But I think his chances are really good. … He’s ready physically and mentally.”
Caffrey has been impressed with Blacharczyk’s leadership skills this season, something he feels Blacharczyk developed while competing at so many different sports.
“Playing football and baseball has made him a more rounded athlete,” said Caffrey. “He took on more of a leadership role for us and I think his leadership helped us win a couple more dual meets this year.”
Now is the time to focus on personal goals, especially now that Blacharczyk’s shoulder injury is behind him.
“At the beginning of the season, it held me back a lot with my conditioning and everything,” Blacharczyk said of the shoulder. “I wasn’t able drill the way I wanted to. I wasn’t able to wrestle the way I wanted to. But I’ve definitely recovered from it.
“I feel really good. I’ve had a great season and I’m ready to get after it.”
Blacharczyk will be part of a large contingent from Washington and Greene counties participating, several of whom are returning placewinners.
Canon-McMillan’s Connor Schram (126), Solomon Chishko (145) and Cody Wiercioch (170) are returning champions and top seeds, while 220-pounder Alex Campbell, a WPIAL finalist in 2012, is also seeded first.
Waynesburg’s A.C. Headlee, a fourth-place finisher here in 2012, is seeded second at 113 pounds, as are Canon-McMillan’s Dalton Macri (120) and Angelo Broglia (Heavyweight).
Like Blacharczyk, Headlee, Macri and Broglia will be looking for their first trip to Hershey.
“He’s been knocking on the door to go to states the last couple of years,” said Caffrey of Blacharczyk. “I think he knows he’s right there.”