Mitch Barcaskey knows what it takes to win a WPIAL wrestling title.
He's one of only five Moon Area High School wrestlers ever to win a WPIAL crown. He claimed a Class AAA title as a 155-pound junior in 1986.
"Wrestling is a way of life," said Barcaskey, who has returned to his alma mater as head coach. "And once you've wrestled, you have it in your blood."
Barcaskey was a three-year starter who compiled a 74-22-1 career record at Moon.
"It's been 25 years since I wrestled at Moon," Barcaskey recalled. "Bill Moore was our coach. We had a 12-6 record my senior year. I don't think the program has had a winning record since."
Moon has had a winning record a few times since Barcaskey graduated, but the last time was in 2001 when the Tigers posted a 7-5 mark. In the past 11 years, Moon has a combined 31 wins and has gone winless four times.
"Wrestling is a legacy sport," Barcaskey said. "Year after year, great programs build a winning tradition that carries over to the next season. My goal is to build a winning tradition at Moon."
Barcaskey realizes it will not be easy.
"You can't be a good wrestler in one year," he said. "You have to build a youth program and have the kids learn wrestling before they get to high school."
Barcaskey has helped with Moon's youth program in the past.
"One of the parents approached me about coaching when the previous coach [Scott Taylor] stepped down," Barcaskey said.
Family ties were another reason Barcaskey accepted the challenge.
"I have two nephews on the team. Patrick is a junior and Nathan is a freshman," he said. "In fact, their older brother, Ben, is my assistant coach. Ben is also wrestling at Penn State Beaver."
Barcaskey has 14 wrestlers on his squad.
"We have a good bunch of guys who are really working hard to become good wrestlers," Barcaskey said. "We're also fortunate to have a co-op agreement with Quaker Valley. Two of our varsity kids are from Quaker Valley, and we have four on the middle school team."
Meanwhile, Section 4-AAA has a completely different look after the WPIAL's realignment.
Moon has been placed in Sub-Section 4A, along with Canon-McMillan, Chartiers Valley, Trinity, McGuffey and Waynesburg Central. Canon-McMillan has won three consecutive WPIAL Class AAA titles and is favored to win again.
Hopewell and Ambridge are now in Sub-Section 4B, along with Blackhawk, Central Valley, Montour and West Allegheny. Blackhawk and Central Valley moved up in classification, but for different reasons.
"We entered into a co-op with New Brighton," Blackhawk coach Ed Braddock said. "That pushed us up to Class AAA. We're hoping New Brighton can give us a good number of athletes. It's going to be tougher on us in Class AAA, but I'm cautiously optimistic that it can help our program. We have to move into it with the right attitude and move forward."
Central Valley is the merger of Center and Monaca. The Warriors were placed in Class AA prior to the merger. Now they must move up to Class AAA.
"We face West Allegheny in our first section match on Dec. 12," Hopewell coach Jason Martsolf said. "No disrespect to the other teams in our sub-section, but this match will probably decide the title. So it's a big match for both of us."
Martsolf has close to 30 students on his varsity roster, but some have not joined the team yet.
"We have a co-op with Aliquippa and those kids are still playing football," Martsolf said. "I hope that we don't see them for another week or so. I'm hoping they join us after winning a PIAA title."
South Fayette is a team to watch in Class AA.
The Lions have everybody returning from last year's squad, which posted a 13-8 record and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals.
"It's great to have everybody back," coach Rick Chaussard said. "We just need to get everybody in the right weight class."
Chaussard has six individuals returning who placed among the top eight in their weight classes in the WPIAL, including a trio of PIAA qualifiers, seniors Michael Fetchet (42-11 at 160) and Seth Carr (34-9 at 113), and sophomore Jared Walker (36-15 at 152). Fetchet placed second in the WPIAL and fifth in the PIAA. Walker won a WPIAL title.
"We should have 25 to 28 kids on the varsity once I decide which freshmen will move down to the junior high," Chaussard said. "We should have a full lineup, which is half the battle in Class AA."
Chaussard realizes that unseating six-time WPIAL champion Burrell will not be easy.
"Burrell has to be considered the favorite until somebody beats them," Chaussard said. "We would like to be that team, but it's a little early to be thinking about the postseason."
First Published December 6, 2012 5:00 AM