Tyler Buckiso has a few goals to reach before his high school wrestling career comes to an end in March.
A senior at Peters Township High School, he would like to win a section title that has eluded him the past three years. He would also like to wrestle in the WPIAL Class AAA finals for the first time. His last wish is to earn a return trip to Hershey for the PIAA championships.
"I've been a section runner-up three times," Buckiso said. "Winning a section title would mean so much to me, but getting back to the state tournament and placing is my ultimate goal."
Buckiso broke into Peters Township's starting lineup as a 103-pound freshman. He placed second in Section 4 and third in the WPIAL, thus earning a PIAA berth. He lost two matches in a row at Hershey, but finished with an impressive 40-7 record.
"As a freshman, I didn't realize just how tough it is to qualify for the state tournament," Buckiso said. "It's been a battle to get back to Hershey. It's frustrating, but I know I can do it."
Buckiso moved to the 120-pound weight class for his sophomore year and won another bronze medal at the Section 4 tournament. He then lost two of three at the WPIAL tournament to finish with a disappointing 28-8 record.
Last season, Buckiso moved to 126 pounds and Peters Township switched to Section 2, but the result was the same: another silver medal. His bid to earn a return trip to Hershey fell one victory short as he placed fourth in the WPIAL.
"Tyler made it to the consolation for third place and lost in overtime [5-3] to North Hills' Tyler Walker," Peters Township coach Jason Carpetta said. "I felt so bad for him, because I know how hard he worked to get back to Hershey."
Buckiso had the misfortune of competing in the WPIAL's strongest weight class last year, as the top three finishers were also the top three finishers at Hershey.
"I was surrounded by studs last year," Buckiso said. "The same is true this year, but I can't worry about that. I've got to treat them all the same, whether they are ranked No. 10 or No. 1. I have to wrestle the best to be the best."
Buckiso is competing at 132 pounds this year and is ranked No. 4 in the WPIAL in Class AAA with an 18-3 record.
Two of the three wrestlers ahead of Buckiso in the rankings are PIAA champions. Franklin Regional's Tyler Smith, a three-time WPIAL runner-up and one-time champ, is ranked No. 1. Hempfield's Sam Krivus, a two-time WPIAL champ and one-time PIAA champ, is No. 2. Penn-Trafford freshman Cameron Coy is No. 3
"Tyler lost to Coy [4-2] in overtime at the Powerade Tournament [which dropped him to the seventh-place match]," Carpetta said. "Smith, Krivus and Coy finished 1-2-3 at the tournament. It's obvious that Tyler is in another tough weight class. Getting back to states will not be easy, but I'm confident he can do it."
Buckiso's 18-3 season record gives him a career mark of 120-23. He's the fifth wrestler in Peters Township history to reach the Century Club and three wins short of tying 2012 graduate and former teammate Derrick Evanovich, who owns the school record with a 123-30 mark.
"Tyler made one big decision before the season started," Carpetta said. "He accepted a scholarship offer from The Citadel. He will be our second wrestler at The Citadel. John Ivashchenko [a 2013 graduate] is the first."
"I never really thought about a military academy until I attended a college expo sponsored by Quest School of Wrestling owner Jim Akerly," Buckiso said. "The Citadel showed an interest in me so I decided to make a visit. I loved everything about the place, especially the coaching staff."
It didn't hurt that his late grandfather, Pat Magnotti, was a Citadel alumnus.
"The Citadel will provide me with the discipline I need while continuing my athletic and academic careers," Buckiso said. "I'm looking forward to the experience."
It's fitting that Buckiso is attending a military academy, because Peters Township recently held a benefit to raise money for Marine Sgt. Doug Vitale, who was seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan.
"It was an honor to have Doug serve as our team captain [for the match against Bethel Park]," Buckiso said. "His eyes were lit up throughout the match. I didn't get to talk with Doug, but it meant a lot to help raise money for him. He's a true leader."
Buckiso is the second of three brothers to wrestle at Peters. His older brother, Mike, is a sophomore wrestling at John Carroll University. His younger brother, A.J., is a sophomore at Peters Township with an 11-11 record at 113 pounds.