South Xtra: Chartiers-Houston wrestler faces a difficult decision

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Garrett Vulcano had his sights set on playing college football when he began his senior year at Chartiers-Houston High School.

"I was leaning more toward football, but now I'm not so sure," said Vulcano, the son of former Chartiers-Houston wrestler Frank Vulcano Jr., who is also the chairman of the WPIAL Wrestling Steering Committee. "I'm going to wait until after the wrestling season to make a decision."

Vulcano has been a starting linebacker on Chartiers-Houston's football team since his sophomore year and has led the team in tackles all three years. He had 101 tackles as a sophomore, 149 as a junior and 130 this past season. He was voted second team All-Black Hills Conference as a sophomore and first team the past two years.

"Garrett has been playing both sports since he was a young boy," Frank Vulcano said. "But football has been his first love. He has a big decision to make over the next couple months. My wife Susan and I will back him either way. We just want him to get a good education."

Vulcano also started on offense as a slotback. He caught 17 passes for 290 yards this past season.

"I prefer to play linebacker, but to play in college, I would have to put on some weight," Vulcano said. "I've looked at several schools and had some offers, but I'm still not sure what to do. It's a big decision and I don't want to make a decision I will regret a year down the road."

Chartiers-Houston wrestling coach Bill Sutton would like to see Vulcano choose wrestling, but would be happy if he chose football.

"I've told Garrett that I want tickets if he ever makes it to the NFL," Sutton said, joking. "I just want him to be happy with his decision."

Sutton and Frank Vulcano Jr. are best friends. The same is true for Garrett Vulcano and Sutton's son Tanner. Both are seniors and both have been starters on the Buccaneers wrestling team since their freshman year.

Garrett Vulcano posted a 30-16 record as a 145-pound freshman. He placed fourth in Section 1-AA and sixth in the WPIAL to earn a Southwest Region berth. Vulcano moved to the 160-pound weight class as a sophomore and won a section title, placed fourth in the WPIAL and sixth in the Southwest Region, which left him one win short of a PIAA berth with a 35-12 record.

Vulcano took a big step last season by placing first in the section, second in the WPIAL and third in the Southwest Region while competing at 170 pounds. He finished with a 44-7 record after losing two of three in his first trip to Hershey for the PIAA championships.

"My dad didn't wrestle as a freshman, so I got him beat there," said Garrett Vulcano, who has been wrestling since first grade. "He finished third in the state his senior year. My goal is to one-up him. To do that, I've got to get to the state finals."

Vulcano has moved to the 195-pound weight class for his senior year. He has an 11-2 record, which includes a first-place finish at the Chartiers-Houston tournament at the start of the season, and a fourth-place finish at the Powerade Christmas tournament, which was held over the weekend at Canon-McMillan High School.

"Placing fourth at a tournament as prestigious as Powerade is a great honor," Bill Sutton said. "The competition he faced this weekend is very similar to what he will face at the state tournament."

Sutton looks at Vulcano as an upper weight who knows how to wrestle like a middleweight.

"Garrett has grown into a pretty big man," Sutton said. "But his skill level is much higher than most upper weights. He started out as a middleweight and knows how to wrestle that style. Most upper weights just push around their opponents and rely on brute strength. Garrett's style is much different."

Vulcano's two losses this season came at the Powerade tournament. He lost 13-6 in the semifinals to Hampton's Jake Hart, the eventual runner-up. He also dropped a 5-2 decision to Spencer Neff of Maryland's Good Counsel in the consolation for third place.

"Colleges are having trouble finding good upper weights because most of them want to play football," Sutton said. "That's why I want to see Garrett wrestle in college. A high finish at states would open a lot of doors for Garrett. I think he should wait until the season is over before making a decision."

Vulcano is closing in on the school record of 132 career wins, which was set in 2011 by Michael Innes. Vulcano entered the week with a 120-37 career mark.

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