Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Headed to Hershey Belle Vernon Sets School Mark by Sending Six to States

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Headed to Hershey Belle Vernon Sets School Mark by Sending Six to States

Article excerpt

In 2015, the Belle Vernon wrestling team set a school record with five Leopards qualifying for the PIAA Class AAA tournament.

The record didn't last long, as the 2016 squad has six entries in 79th annual PIAA championships, which began Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey.

"One of the team goals we set was to break the school record for PIAA qualifiers," said Zachary Hartman, a member of both record- breaking squads. "It's great to have five teammates joining me at Hershey."

Hartman (42-6), the No. 2 seed at 132 pounds, punched his second ticket to Hershey by pinning Hempfield's Luke Kemerer (33-3), the top seed. It was his second appearance in the finals and his first WPIAL title.

Hartman was one of five Belle Vernon wrestlers to earn a berth in the WPIAL finals. He was joined atop the winners platform by teammate Derek Verkleeren (40-7), who earned his first PIAA berth by pinning Pine-Richland's David Kelly (26-7) in 36 seconds in the 152-pound final.

"I got in on a single, clubbed his head and caught him in a cradle," Verkleeren said. "I wanted to pin him, but it went quicker than I thought. It's great to finally qualify for the state tournament, but it's a little bitter sweet without my brother going."

Jarod Verkleeren had hoped to make a third trip to Hershey, but failed to qualify for the 145-pound weight class after a misinterpretation of the rules by Belle Vernon's coaching staff at the PIAA team tournament.

Austin Bell, Mitchell Hartman and Milton Kobaly also advanced to the finals for Belle Vernon, but all three had to settle for a silver medal.

Bell (38-2) made a third consecutive appearance in the finals and finished second for the second consecutive year after a 2-1, double- overtime loss to Bethel Park's Nino Bonaccorsi (36-1) in the 170- pound final. It was the second time in one week that Bonaccorsi beat Bell, and both bouts went to the tiebreaker periods.

"I'm so excited to win a WPIAL title," said Bonaccorsi, who joins his brother Nick as a WPIAL champ. "Every time I wrestle Austin it's a tough match. I wouldn't be surprised if we met at Hershey."

Mitchell Hartman (38-10) lost, 2-1, in double overtime to Albert Gallatin's Tim Wallace (34-2) in the 160-pound final. …

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