HOUSTON – Josh Kuslock couldn’t ask for a better start to his varsity wrestling career.
Kuslock was perfect in his matches at the Chartiers-Houston tournament Saturday.
And it didn’t hurt that Kuslock was wrestling in front of the home crowd at the C-H gym.
The 120-pound freshman was unseeded, but that didn’t stop Kuslock from winning the title with a dominating 12-2 major decision over Mark Tharp of Chartiers Valley, the fourth seed in that weight class.
Kuslock was one of three local wrestlers to win their weight class in this tournament. Philip Mary of Peters Township won the 126-pound weight class with a pin of top-seeded Connor Foust of Butler, who also happened to be a defending champion in this two-day tournament.
And Mary’s teammate Lukas Cervenak won the heavyweight title by pinning unseeded Zack Jablonski of Montour in 3:40.
Peters Township, which had five wrestlers in the finals, won the team title with 217 points, five more than Butler. Pine Richland (153.5) was third, North Hills (140.5) was fourth and Upper St. Clair (126.5) fifth.
“I was a bit nervous,” said Kuslock. “Once the match started, the nervousness went away.”
Kuslock was unseeded but pinned Jason Ruffing of Moon in 4:24 to advance out of the first round. A 15-4 major decision over Conner Renkey of Pine Richland pushed him into the quarterfinals and a technical fall over third-seeded Kevin Chaussard of South Fayette set him up against Kody Kamara of Freedom in the semifinals.
Kuslock edged Kamara 8-5 and rolled past Tharp in the finals.
“I didn’t know a lot of the people in my bracket,” said Kuslock. “I like that because I’m less nervous.”
Kuslock was the highest finisher of the four C-H placewinners.
“I hadn’t seen him wrestle much except in junior high,” said Jeff Havelka, the Bucs’ first-year head coach. “It was his first match, and I didn’t know what to expect. He was a little sluggish in the first match but by the quarterfinals, he was firing on all cylinders.”
Mary looked strong, the result of an offseason training program. He built a 4-1 lead after one before pinning Foust in the second period.
“I feel much more confident,” said Mary. “We wrestled last year, but I wasn’t as strong. I beat him 2-0 in last year’s WPIAL tournament.”
Mary’s closest match came in the quarterfinals, 7-4 over Keagan Lawson of North Hills. Lawon took third.
“(Mary) is a hard worker,” said PT head coach Jason Carpetta. “He’s the most coachable kid I have ever had.”
Cervenak, who placed third in this event last year, pinned his way to the title. The fastest came in the semifinals, over Logan Platt of Shady Side Academy in 1:51. Cervenak had Jablonski nearly turned on two occasions but remained patient until the final one. Jablonski tried to bridge once, then was pinned.
“I haven’t seen him before,” said Cervenak. “I think he wrestled 195 last year. I was really looking at the No. 2 seed (KaDell Coles of Avonworth) to get there. I think I wrestled pretty well. I was a little rusty in my first match. I’m trying to work for falls more when I’m on top rather than just ride a kid out.”
A.J. Buckiso, Tyler Buckiso and Italo Merante each made the finals for PT but came up short. Gage Curry of North Hills pinned A.J. Buckiso in 3:11 at 113; Shane Gentry of South Side Beaver decisioned Tyler Buckiso 5-1 at 132 and Jake Wentzel of South Park beat Merante 5-1 in UTB after catching him in a cross-face cradle.
But their team points in reaching the finals were critical for PT team title.
“It was a total team effort,” said Carpetta. “I think we looked real good. It was the first tournament, and I’m pleased with the way we wrestled.”
Charleroi’s Nick Gavazzi missed the tournament with a sore shoulder. … Hunter Neely (106) of Bentworth and Nico Brown (170) of Beth-Center were runners-up. … A short-handed South Fayette finished 20th with 43 points. … Richie McGinnis of Chartiers-Houston won his 100th career match when he pinned Anthony Ruane of Jeannette in 2:40 for fifth place at 145.