North Xtra: Reconstruction plan continues at Avonworth
Avonworth's Wes Bartholomew, top, going against Burrell's Phil Marra, is ranked No. 8 at 138 pounds in Class AA.
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Tim Giel left a very successful wrestling program at Shady Side Academy three years ago and took on the challenge of rebuilding a program at Avonworth that was almost disbanded.
"We started off with seven kids my first year and finished with only three," said Giel, whose main reason for coming to Avonworth was to become the school's athletic director. "They wanted to drop the wrestling program and I asked for a couple years to rebuild the program. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I've never been one to turn down a challenge."
Giel convinced the school to keep the program a second year because he had five incoming freshmen who had experience with the junior high team. Avonworth is a "co-op" program, which is allowed to use athletes from Northgate High School as well because Northgate doesn't have its own wresttling program. Severeal wrestlers on the Avonworth team are Northgate students.
"When you have only five kids, it's almost impossible to win a dual meet," Giel said. "With that in mind, we concentrated on individual achievement. I knew if I could keep them interested, we would have more kids moving up to join them the following year."
All five freshmen finished the season and participated in the section tournament. Two qualified for the WPIAL Class AA tournament and one advanced to the Southwest Regional.
"It wasn't easy, but all five were good listeners who were eager to learn," Giel said. "And they weren't afraid of working hard."
Avonworth posted an 0-15 record in Giel's first season.
Last season was a little better, as the Antelopes recorded one victory in 15 matches.
Giel's career record took a big hit with the 1-29 record over two seasons. In 27 seasons at Shady Side Academy, he had a 307-172 record.
"We went a while without picking up wins, but that doesn't matter," Giel said. "What matters is that I still enjoy the sport and I want to keep coaching. The wins and losses don't matter."
Giel had hoped to see a significant jump in numbers this season and he hasn't been disappointed.
"We started out with 17 kids, but lost a few to injuries and others decided wrestling wasn't for them," Giel said. "But we still have 12 or 13 kids who have remained with the team. That's very encouraging."
Four of the five freshmen from last season are back and doing well as sophomores.
"It's nice to have four kids who have a year of experience under their belts," Giel said. "All four have provided good leadership, despite their age."
The most successful of the foursome has been Wes Bartholomew. He had a 15-16 record last year while competing at 132 pounds. This year, he has moved to 138 and has an impressive 22-8 record, which is good enough to be ranked No. 8 in WPIAL Class AA by the Post-Gazette.
"Wes has been wrestling since his elementary years," Giel said. "He has a great work ethic. It seems as though things are finally coming together for him. He's a very coachable kid who has the innate ability to find his way out of tough situations. He's also a good leader."
The other three returning lettermen are Darion Trimmer (17-11 at 132), Brandon Wasko (4-4 at 195) and Cameron Kosak (7-15 at 145).
"Darion placed fourth in the WPIAL at 120 and qualified for the Southwest Region tournament last season," Giel said.
Tyler Wisniewski and Ka'dale Coles are two newcomers who have been impressive. Wisniewski, a freshman, has a 16-13 record at 106 pounds. Coles, a sophomore, is 15-9 at 285 pounds. He's a transfer who wrestled for Oliver of the City League last year.
"Ka'Dale is new to the district," Giel said. "He's a good kid who is willing to put in the hard work. And he's only a sophomore."
It's not just the individual success that Giel is enjoying this season. The Antelopes qualified for the WPIAL Class AA team tournament for the first time in school history. They placed second in Section 3A, then upset South Allegheny, 40-36, in the consolation for third place at the Section 3 tournament.
"The win against South Allegheny was significant because we lost to them by 30 points in the regular season," Giel said. "They were missing two starters this time around, so I knew we had a chance to beat them."
Avonworth made its WPIAL debut Wednesday night against No. 5 seed Bentworth.
"Qualifying for the WPIAL team tournament was a big step for us," Giel said.
First Published January 31, 2013 12:00 am