Montour's Cole Macek, Chartiers Valley's Noah Wilps, South Side Beaver's Shane Gentry and the South Fayette trio of Grant Fetchet, Jared Walker and Mike Carr have something in common.
All six have made at least one appearance in the PIAA wrestling championships. And all six are hoping to make a return trip to Hershey at the end of the 2013-14 season, which begins Friday.
* Macek (33-6 at 220 pounds last season), who is also a standout football player for the Spartans, is a two-time PIAA Class AAA qualifier who placed third in the WPIAL both times.
* Wilps (32-11 at 170) placed sixth in his first PIAA Class AAA appearance last season after finishing second in the WPIAL tournament.
* Gentry (38-6 at 132) is a two-time PIAA Class AA qualifier, and one-time place-winner, who fell one win short of a third appearance last season.
* Fetchet (37-12 at 152) earned his first PIAA Class AA berth last season after falling one win short the previous two years.
* Walker (34-9 at 160) is a two-time WPIAL Class AA champion and two-time PIAA qualifier who placed seventh in the state last season.
* Carr (29-13 at 120) earned his first PIAA Class AA berth last season as a freshman.
Lions have talented nucleus
Fetchet, Walker and Carr are among nine starters returning from a record-breaking South Fayette squad that 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. I just can't get them all on the mat yet."
Chaussard had only 12 wrestlers at practice last week due to the Lions' success on the football field. The Lions defeated Aliquippa Saturday to win the WPIAL Class AA title and willadvance to the PIAA tournament this week.
"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. We will just have to wait."
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. He came within one win of a PIAA berth in 2012.
"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 this season.
"Our goal is to get back to the WPIAL finals again and win our first title," Chaussard said. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
Help from the Quips
Hopewell coach Jason Martsolf will be watching Saturday's WPIAL Class AA football title game with his squad in mind.
"We have a co-op with Aliquippa," Martsolf said last week. "Five kids from Aliquippa will be joining our squad, but four are on the football team, so we may not have them for a while."
As it turned out, the Quips were upset by South Fayette and their season is over, so Martsolf will get "reinforcements' sooner than he thought.
Hopewell placed first in Sub-Section 4B last year and finished the season with a 14-6 record. Four key starters from that squad have graduated.
"All four were WPIAL qualifiers, so they will be missed," Martsolf said. "We have a good group of kids with experience coming back, but they are still young. The rest of our squad, including the Aliquippa kids, have little or no experience."
Hopewell's top returnees are Travis Sonson (25-9 at 120), Dustin Winkle (24-13 at 126), Dan Santia (26-11 at 145) and DiMantea Bonaugh (17-6 at 160).
Colts need to replenish
Chartiers Valley enters the season with hopes of returning to the WPIAL Class AAA Team Tournament after a one-year absence, but graduation attrition is a concern for coach Bill Evans.
"We lost five starters to graduation," Evans said. "We have a nice group of returning lettermen, but many of them are still young. Our lineup will have good balance: a couple freshmen, a few sophomores, some juniors and some seniors. We're not heavy in any one class."
Wilps is Chartiers Valley's top returnee. He lost to Canon-McMillan's Cody Wiercioch in last year's WPIAL title match at 170 pounds, then placed sixth in the state.
Also back for Chartiers Valley are Justin Sullivan (17-16 at 106) and Mike Roper (13-8 at 195).
"One goal we've set is to make it back to the WPIAL Team Tournament," Evans said. "We have to place among the top three in our sub-section to qualify. We have to put ourselves in a position to be successful."