South Xtra: Alumnus takes over as Keystone Oaks wrestling coach

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Rich Bonaccorsi has come full circle.

After 17 years of head coaching, Bonaccorsi has taken over as the head wrestling coach at Keystone Oaks, his alma mater.

"I wrestled in the PIAA tournament my junior and senior year," said Bonaccorsi, a 1982 KO graduate. "I also wrestled in the [Dapper Dan Wrestling] Classic my senior year."

Bonaccorsi served as J.J. Zanetta's assistant last season.

"The transition has gone relatively smoothly since I'm familiar with all the kids," said Bonaccorsi, who works for the Pittsburgh Public School District at CAPA. "We have 17 kids out for the varsity team, so it's a few more than we had last year."

Bonaccorsi's first stint as a head coach came at Upper St. Clair, as he posted a 60-34 record in five seasons, ending in 1994. He also coached 12 years in two different stints at Carrick, where he had a 90-50 record.

"I have 150 career victories, so I'm halfway to the [Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling] Hall of Fame, so I'm not on a very good pace," Bonaccorsi joked.

Keystone Oaks must replace four starters who graduated and two others who transferred.

"Brett Beltz transferred to South Fayette, and Malachai Owens transferred to Mt. Lebanon," Bonaccorsi said.

The team's top returnees are Camden Anderson (12-9 at 106) and Joey Kazalas (21-13 at 220).

Lions return strong nucleus

South Fayette has nine starters returning from last season's record-breaking squad, which placed second in the WPIAL Class AA Team Tournament and qualified for the PIAA Team Tournament, both first-time appearances in school history.

"We lost five key starters to graduation, including a pair of PIAA place-winners," South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard said. "But we do have a good nucleus of kids coming back, including three PIAA qualifiers. I just can't get them all on the mat yet."

Chaussard had only 12 wrestlers at practice last week due to South Fayette's success on the football field. The Lions defeated Aliquippa in Saturday's WPIAL Class AA title game. That means they'll play for at least one more week in the PIAA playoffs

"We have 20 kids on the football team," said Chaussard, who also serves as head coach of South Fayette's freshman football team. "I want to see the football team go as far as it can, but I also want to get everybody in the [wrestling] practice room."

One of the football players who also wrestles is Brett Beltz (11-8 at 138), a transfer who attended Keystone Oaks the past two years. Beltz was a two-year starter at Keystone Oaks who missed half of last season with a hand injury.

"It's nice to have a quality wrestler like Brett Beltz stepping into the middle of our lineup [at 145-152]," Chaussard said.

South Fayette is expected to be one of the top teams in Class AA.

"Our goal is to get back to the WPIAL finals again and win our first title," Chaussard said.

South Fayette's three returning PIAA qualifiers are Grant Fetchet (37-12 at 152), Jared Walker (34-9 at 160) and Mike Carr (29-13 at 120). Walker is a two-time WPIAL Class AA champion and two-time PIAA qualifier.

Lots of new coaches

Bonaccorsi is one of 10 new WPIAL Class AA coaches. Other south suburban schools with a new coach are Chartiers-Houston (Jeff Havelka) and Washington (John Paiani).

Carr, Fetchet and Walker are among seven wrestlers from the South Xtra area who qualified for the PIAA Class AA Tournament last season. The others are Bentworth's Jake Rothka (41-13 at 113), Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi (38-4 at 138) and the South Park duo of Greg Bulsak (35-9 at 126) and Jake Wentzel (34-12 at 132).

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