North Xtra: Nothing puzzling about North Allegheny's wrestling title

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North Allegheny wrestling coach Jamie Kyriazis spent the first month of the season waiting for all the pieces of the puzzle to come together.

The Tigers were short-handed most of the month due to North Allegheny's incredible success on the football field.

Last weekend's performance at the Allegheny County Championships showed Kyriazis that the puzzle is almost complete.

North Allegheny became the first team in the 12-year history of the Allegheny County Championships to win three team titles. The Tigers had 10 of 14 entries earn place-winner status by finishing among the top eight in their weight classes.

"This tournament marks the midpoint of the season," Kyriazis said. "I like to use it to measure how we are doing as a team. Winning the county team title shows me that the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together."

North Allegheny scored 240 points in the two-day tournament, which ranks second in tournament history, and finished 36.5 points ahead of runner-up Hampton. The only team to score higher was the 2007 Tigers squad, which tallied 258 points en route to its first title.

"It was a total team effort," Kyriazis said. "Everybody won at least one match for us, so everybody made a contribution. It was a good bonding experience for the kids."

North Allegheny had three wrestlers win county titles, including two who made their return trips to the top of the winners platform.

Dom Forys won his third consecutive title, and was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament, after dominating Central Catholic's Vincenzo Joseph, 13-2, in the 120-pound final. Joseph was also a returning champion.

"Dom was just tremendous in the championship match," Kyriazis said. "He dominated [Joseph] from the opening whistle to the final whistle."

Alex DeCiantis became a two-time champion with a 21-6 technical fall of Elizabeth Forward's Luke Fornier at 182 pounds.

"That was Alex's debut at 182," said Kyriazis, referring to DeCiantis' drop from the 195-pound weight class. "He looked good and told me he felt good."

Jesse Rodgers was North Allegheny's third champion. Rodgers rode out Central Catholic's Justin Alexander in the second period en route to a 1-0 victory in the 138-pound final.

"Jesse and Justin have wrestled many times before over the years and this was a typical match for them," Kyriazis said. "It usually comes down to a point or two. In fact, I'm pretty sure they met in the consolation for third place last year."

They did, and Rodgers was the winner in that match, too.

North Allegheny had four entries place third in their weight class, including newcomer Layne Skundrich, the bronze medalist at 220.

"Layne got a late start due to football season, then took a week off before he joined us," Kyriazis said. "He didn't wrestle any matches until after the new year. He's a tremendous athlete who has a bright future."

Hampton fell short of defending the title it won last year. The Talbots had eight of its 14 entries place, including three champions.

"We wrestled well enough to win, but North Allegheny was better," said Hampton coach Joe Bursick, who missed the tournament due to a death in his family. "One thing that really hurt us was the concussion Justin Aippersbach suffered in the quarterfinals."

Aippersbach, a 182-pound senior, met with school doctors after losing in the quarterfinals and the diagnosis was that he had sustained a concussion. The Talbots promptly withdrew him from the tournament.

Kevin Synan, Jake Hart and Noah Shulman won titles for Hampton.

Shulman won his second 285-pound title with a convincing 9-0 victory against Fox Chapel's Tyler Lever. Hart made a second appearance in the finals and claimed his first title with a 5-3 win against North Hills' Alen Turcinhodzic at 195 pounds.

"Jake and Noah were both trying to get the most pins in the least amount of time," Bursick said. "Both had three pins, but neither was the winner. Somebody else had four pins."

Synan won at 145 pounds with a 3-0 win against Central Catholic's Chris Nuss.

"Kevin wrestled Nuss for the fourth time this season and he's won all four. And all four have been close decisions." Bursick said. "It's not easy to beat an opponent that many times in a row."

North Hills finished fifth in the team standings, but equaled North Allegheny and Hampton with three individual champions.

"We had more kids in the finals than North Allegheny or Hampton, but they had a full lineup and were more balanced than we are," North Hills coach Jose Martinez said. "We had only 12 entries, so we were a little short-handed."

Gage Curry, Tyler Walker and Jonathan Avon won titles for the Indians, while Turcinhodzic and Drew Walker placed second.

Curry claimed the 106-pound title with a 7-1 win against Shaler's Mike Heinl. Tyler Walker made his second title match appearance and claimed his first title with a 12-4 win against Shaler's Jordan McGonigle at 125 pounds.

"Gage won the award for the most pins in the least amount of time," Martinez said. "He had four pins in just over nine minutes [9:03]."

Avon made his second appearance in the finals and won his first title with a 7-1 win against Pine-Richland's Brendan Burnham at 160 pounds. Drew Walker dropped a 6-2 decision to Keystone Oaks's Nick Zanetta in the 132-pound final.

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