An era is coming to an end.
Whether or not they repeat as PIAA Class AAA wrestling champions, winning the team title for the third consecutive year, one of the greatest runs in the history of Pennsylvania wrestling will end on Saturday as members of the current Canon-McMillan team will don their blue and gold singlets for the final time.
Seniors Connor Schram, Cody Wiercioch, Alex Campbell and Angelo Broglia will make their last appearances for the Big Macs at the PIAA Class AAA tournament, which begins Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey, and future classes at Canon-McMillan will have a tough time living up to the standard set by this group.
What have they accomplished in four years at the school?
How about four consecutive WPIAL team titles, a feat that had not been done before at the Class AAA level? Or back-to-back PIAA Team Tournament titles? This weekend, they will attempt to win a third-straight team title at the individual tournament.
And that doesn’t even include all of the individual accolades and medals, which they hope to add to this weekend.
“They’ve done a lot of special things, made memories that will last a lifetime,” said head coach Chris Mary. “With a state championship team, there’s a bond that will last forever. It’s just been a journey from last year to carry it over to this year.”
The Big Macs will send seven wrestlers to Hershey Thursday, giving them as good a chance as any team to capture a third team title.
But there will also be individual goals at stake.
Schram and Wiercioch want to finish their senior years with another state championship.
Schram, who will compete in the 126-pound weight class, won a championship as a freshman, but has finished second in each of the past two years.
“This is it right now for me, Broglia, Campbell, Wiercioch,” said Schram, who will wrestle collegiately at Stanford. “We’ll just have to give it everything we’ve got out there. Hopefully we can win some hardware at states.”
Wiercioch, meanwhile, will attempt to win his third PIAA title at 170 pounds. The Pitt recruit also owns a second-place finish here, and admits it will be a difficult weekend.
“It’s bittersweet in a way,” said Wiercioch. “I get to share the Hershey trip with two of my best friends, my teammates, so I’m looking for three state titles there. Hopefully, we can get Dalton (Macri) in there, too.
“It’s going to come to an end, so we’ll just enjoy it while it lasts.”
Campbell, who wrestles at 220 pounds, was a fifth-place finisher at the PIAA tournament last year, while Broglia, a heavyweight, will be making his first PIAA individual appearance.
They’ll be joined by juniors Brendon Price (106), Macri (120) and Solomon Chishko (145). Price will be making his first PIAA trip, while Macri and Chishko were third-place finishers in 2012.
Those seven and Waynesburg 113-pound WPIAL champion A.C. Headlee will represent Washington and Greene counties.
“It’s definitely sad,” said Chishko, who like Schram and Wiercioch is a three-time WPIAL champion. “I’ve been training with these partners for so long, winning stuff together. But that’s what happens at the next level. You move on and train for college and the next level. It sucks, but it’s part of wrestling.”
At least according to Chishko, who will be looking to better a pair of third-place PIAA finishes, it’s not the end of the line for the Big Macs at the state level.
“We’ve got some tough kids coming in and we’ve still got some tough people,” Chishko said. “We’ll still be competitive next year. Maybe not at this level, but we’ll still be up there.”
“Absolutely. I think the program is going to continue to thrive,” Wiercioch said.
But will it be the same?
Other teams might have some success, but it will be difficult to match the accomplishments of this senior group.
“I’m blessed to have such a good group of kids,” said Mary. “I’m so proud of them. They’re good kids on and off the mat.”