West Xtra: In third season back on mats, Ellwood City shows improvement

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Take a look at the team standings from the 2013 and '14 Midwestern Athletic Conference Wrestling Tournaments and its easy to see how much Ellwood City has improved.

Ellwood City placed 10th in the 14-team field last year and had one wrestler advance to the finals. It was a much different story at this year's tournament, which took place this past weekend at Montour High School.

Coach Craig Alberts' squad placed fourth in the team standings and had four wrestlers advance to the finals.

"I thought we had a chance to finish in the top half, maybe top five," said Alberts, now in his second season as head coach at Ellwood. "We're very pleased to finish fourth. It's something to be proud of."

Not bad for a program that was resurrected three years ago after a nine-year hiatus.

"This is our third season [back] with a varsity program, but we actually started the process nine years ago," Alberts said. "I was one of five guys who started a youth program. Our goal was to build a feeder system before bringing back the varsity team."

John Barnes coached one season, then turned the reins over to Alberts last season.

"We had only two seniors on last year's team," Alberts said. "That gave us experienced wrestlers returning at almost every weight class."

Alberts has six seniors on this year's squad.

"Our seniors have provided great leadership for the team," Alberts said. "They push everybody in practice every day."

Two Wolverines seniors advanced to the finals -- Brad Grinnen and Donnie Kerr -- but both had to settle for silver medals.

Grinnen (13-2) made a third consecutive appearance in the finals and won his second silver medal after a 3-2 loss to Montour's Cole Macek, who claimed his fourth title.

"Brad won a MAC title two years, but came up short last year and again this year," Alberts said. "We have high expectations for Brad. He placed fourth in the WPIAL [Class AA] and came within one win of going to Hershey last year."

Kerr (10-5) was pinned in the 145-pound final by West Allegheny's Kyle Scott.

Grinnen and Kerr were joined in the finals by Mike Sinclair and Tyler Alberts.

Sinclair (14-3), a junior, claimed the 220-pound title by pinning Ambridge's Calvin Sittig in the title match.

"It's the first high school tournament title for Mike," Alberts said. "He's worked so hard the past two years and has really improved his wrestling skills."

Albert's son, Tyler (10-6), a freshman, placed second at 106 pounds after dropping a 7-0 decision to West Allegheny's Mason Schaeffer.

"Tyler has been wrestling since he was 6," Alberts said. "He's a little small for the 106-pound weight class, as he weighs in at no more than 98 pounds. He's struggled at times, but overall has done a good job."

Adam Foreman (9-3) was a top-three finisher for the Wolverines. Foreman, a sophomore, placed third at 285.

Ellwood City posted a 10-12 team record in Alberts' first season as head coach. The Wolverines also earned the first WPIAL playoff berth in school history.

"Our goal is to make it back to the WPIAL team tournament," Alberts said.

The Wolverines are closing in on reaching that goal. They opened with section victories against Freedom Area and South Side Beaver. A match with Beaver Area was postponed on Monday. First place was on the line when Ellwood City traveled to Burgettstown on Wednesday.

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