The high school football season has finally ended.
That means North Allegheny wrestling coach Jamie Kyriazis will have his full complement of wrestlers available for the 43rd annual Manheim Christmas Tournament, which begins this morning.
"It was great to see the football team win WPIAL and PIAA titles," said Kyriazis, who had been without 10 members of his squad until the football season came to an end. "It's a memory they will always cherish."
Kyriazis is hoping for another memorable season with his wrestling squad. North Allegheny surprised everybody last season by advancing to the WPIAL Class AAA team title match after being seeded No. 7 in the bracket. The Tigers lost to three-time champion Canon-McMillan in the championship match, then finished among the top six in the state.
"We had 10 kids on the football team," Kyriazis said. "I gave them all the option of taking a week or so off before joining the wrestling team. Some of them are still a little banged up."
North Allegheny should have a full lineup at the Manheim Christmas Tournament. Two of the returning football players are planning to compete at 160 pounds, but one is not available for the tournament.
"Ben Schweiger and Colton Byerly are both at 160," said Kyriazis, referring to two returning starters. "Colton is banged up, so we're going to keep him out."
Schweiger will be joined in the starting lineup by fellow football players Alex DeCiantis at 195, Clay Byerly at 170 and Zach Smith at 182.
"It's like starting over again at practice when you have that many kids stepping into the picture two weeks into the season," Kyriazis said.
North Allegheny placed fourth at the Manheim tournament last season. The Tigers had three wrestlers advance to the finals and two of those three are back. Dom Forys won the 113-pound title, while Scott Stossel placed second at 106.
"I think we can improve on last year's fourth-place finish," Kyriazis said. "Easton and Kiski Area have to be considered the favorites. I think we can give Easton a run for its money."
North Allegheny, Easton and Kiski Area are joined in the 15-team field by Bald Eagle, Cathedral Prep of Erie, Council Rock North, Fort LeBoeuf, Garnet Valley, J.W. Robinson (Va.), Lower Dauphin, Reynolds, Shikellamy, Spring Ford, Susquenita and the host team, Manheim Central.
"I really like this tournament because it gives us a chance to see some teams we normally see at Hershey," Kyriazis said. "We also find out that the officiating is different. WPIAL refs are better."
North Allegheny is making its sixth consecutive appearance at the Manheim tournament.
"The thing I like the most about this tournament is the support we receive from the community," Kyriazis said. "Our wrestlers stay with various families from the Manheim School District. The families house two or three wrestlers and are responsible for them throughout the tournament.
"The families meet us at the high school the night before the tournament starts. The kids stay with their host family the entire weekend, except when they are on the mat. The host families are also responsible for feeding the kids and provide transportation back and forth to the high school."
The coaches stay at a local hotel.
"Having our kids stay with families really helps cut our hotel bill," Kyriazis said. "But it's also a good experience for the kids. Some of our former wrestlers still keep in contact with their host families."
North Allegheny has posted victories in its first two Section 3A matches. The Tigers (2-0) are tied with Butler for first place. The tie will be broken Jan. 3, when the two face off at North Allegheny.
First Published December 27, 2012 5:00 AM