The Avonworth High School wrestling program hasn't had a section champion since 2006 and coach Tim Giel would like to see that drought end Saturday, as the Antelopes play host to the Class AA Section 3 tournament.
"I'm not sure of the year, but Avonworth's last section champion was Curtis Branchen," said Giel, referring to a 2006 graduate who won two Class AAA Section 3 titles for the Antelopes. "That's a long time to go without a section champion."
Giel has 10 wrestlers entered in the section tournament, including two returning runners-up and a trio of third-place finishers. Avonworth is actually a "co-op" program in which students from Northgate are also eligible to wrestle for the Antelopes.
Brothers Darion and Anthony Trimmer were section runners-up for Avonworth last year. Darion Trimmer, a junior who has a team-best 25-11 record, has moved to 132 after placing second at 126 last year. Anthony Trimmer, a sophomore who has a 17-10 record, has moved from 120 to 138.
"Both Trimmers can make some noise on Saturday," Giel said. "Both are capable of winning a section title."
The Antelopes trio of third-place finishers are Ka'Dale Coles (20-13 at 285), Brandon Wasko (14-15 at 195) and Isaac Eames (11-18 at 113). Coles returns at heavyweight in a very strong weight class. Wasko and Eames also return at the same weight.
"This is one of the hardest years I've had in coaching," Giel said. "It's been a tough year. We look good at times and look bad other times. We lack consistency. It's been a struggle to get some of the kids to give the commitment required to be a winner."
Uncertainty at Highlands
Highlands coach Grant Walters has 11 wrestlers entered in the Class AA Section 1 tournament, but isn't sure how many will participate.
"I have a couple kids who are injured and a few others who were academically ineligible last week," Walters said. "I only had nine of 18 kids available to practice last week. It's a little frustrating to have this happen when we are getting ready for the most important time of the season."
Walters is making his head coaching debut.
"I'm coaching the varsity team and the elementary team, along with running two businesses," Walters said. "Needless to say, it's been a busy winter for me."
Highlands had four wrestlers compete in last year's Section 3 tournament and all four qualified for the WPIAL tournament. Three of the four are entered in this year's section tournament.
Nolan Wise (26-5 at 152) was a section runner-up at 138 last year. Zach Mazur (15-8 at 170) and Thomas Grates (10-12 at 160) were third-place finishers.
"Nolan has a good shot of getting back to the finals," Walters said. "He's had a great season."
Trojans jump in
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Taylor Letters is also making his head coaching debut. The Trojans became a full member of Class AA Section 3 this season, after competing as a tournament-only squad last season.
"We got a late start due to the great success our football team had," said Letters, who started practice a month later than any other team since every member of his squad played football. "It hasn't been easy, but we're looking forward to the section tournament."
North Catholic had four wrestlers compete in last year's Section 3 tournament, while Letters was an assistant. The Trojans have seven entries this season. The Trojans top entry is Josh Churchin, a 170-pound senior who has a 12-6 record. Last season, Churchin placed second in the section and fourth in the WPIAL at the same weight class.
Shady Side Academy wrestled a tournament-only schedule this year. The Indians have three wrestlers entered in the Section 3 tournament.