Joey Dance might compete in Virginia, but he's very familiar with Southwestern Pennsylvania wrestling.
"When I was in elementary school, I attended Rob Waller's All-American wrestling camps," said Dance, a senior at Christiansburg High School in Virginia.
Waller, who resides in Latrobe, coached for 17 years at Mount Pleasant and conducted a camp for youth wrestlers in the summer. The friendship between Dance and Waller has continued over the years.
"Coach Waller came down to Virginia to watch me win my fourth state title," Dance said. "It was nice to have him make the trip from Pennsylvania."
Dance recently won his fourth Virginia Class AA state title after moving up two weight classes to 138 pounds.
"I could have wrestled at 126, but having me wrestle up two weight classes gave our team a better chance in the race for the team title," Dance said.
The strategy worked, and Christiansburg tied a state record with its 12th consecutive Virginia state title.
"Joey is not only a nice kid, he's a hard worker," Waller said. "He attended my camps a number of years during elementary and middle school. I even did a camp for his team one summer. He's a very talented wrestler who comes from a great family.
"And he's always got a smile on his face."
Dance is one of 13 wrestlers from across the country invited to wrestle for the United States all-stars at the 39th Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic March 17 at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House.
"I was so excited to find out I had been chosen," Dance said. "I've read about the Classic in the past, so I am familiar with it. It's an honor to be chosen. With friends and family coming up from Virginia, I should have a cheering section of a dozen or so."
Dance has never attended the Classic, but has participated in the Powerade Christmas tournament at Canon-McMillan.
"[Christiansburg] came to the Powerade tournament my sophomore year," Dance said. "I made it to the finals [at 119] and lost to [Derry's] Jimmy Gulibon, 2-1, in triple overtime."
Dance finished his senior season with a 47-0 record and has a career mark of 186-14. He accepted a scholarship offer to Virginia Tech.
"I live 10 minutes from the campus," Dance said. "I had numerous offers, and seriously considered Oklahoma State, but I didn't want to move that far away from home. The convenience factor played a big part in my decision to attend Virginia Tech."
Dance also is a member of the USA Wrestling Junior World Team.
"Last summer, we traveled to Thailand to face other teams from all over the world," Dance said. "It was a great experience."
The Classic selection committee has not chosen Dance's opponent, but it could be Canon-McMillan's Connor Schram, a three-time PIAA Class AAA finalist and one-time champ.
"I faced Connor in a tournament a couple summers ago," Dance said, adding that he won the match by a technical fall.
The United States all-stars will face the Pennsylvania all-star team in the feature match at 6 p.m. A team of WPIAL all-stars will face the Virginia all-stars in a preliminary match at 4 p.m.
The Classic is sponsored by the Post-Gazette Dapper Dan Charities and local volunteers. Proceeds from the event support a youth wrestling program for inner-city children through the Dapper Dan Youth Sports Leagues at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania. Reserved seat tickets are $15 and general admission is $10.
Tickets can be purchased at Wright Automotive Group on Route 19, in Pine; Monroeville Chrysler Jeep; Canon-McMillan High School; or by calling Dapper Dan Charities at 412-263-3850.
For more information about the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic or to order tickets, visit: www.wrestlingclassic.com.