Many members of the Fox Chapel Area boys wrestling team saw significant action on the mat last season, and head coach Michael Frank is excited about the wealth of experience they’ll bring to this year’s squad.
“We didn’t graduate too many seniors, and only one senior from our starting lineup graduated,” he said. “It’s huge. A lot of what we focus on at the beginning of the year is helping everyone understand what the expectation is in our practice room and how we operate as a program. When you have so many kids returning, they already know that. We can just build right from there.”
The team operated quite well last year with a 14-8 record overall and a 3-2 section mark, earning the Foxes a spot in the WPIAL team playoffs for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. The Foxes went on to win their matchup against Bethel Park before falling to Waynesburg in the second round.
“That helped springboard into this season where the kids could see some success from a team perspective,” coach Frank said. “That will lead us to setting some good quality team goals and working toward those.”
Coach Frank said a couple of seniors who will be counted on for mat success and leadership are Alex Kaufmann, who will wrestle at 152 or 160 pounds, and Josh Alexander, who is set to occupy the 138-pound spot.
“Alex is a leader in every sense of the word, a terrific student first and foremost,” coach Frank said. “(Josh) is another great student-athlete who loves the sport of wrestling and has been around it his whole life. He’s a key leader for our team.”
Juniors who had success last season and are expected to be integral members of this season’s team are Milo Chiu, an all-WPIAL soccer player; Landon Funk; Michael Worsen; Youssef Abdelsalam; and heavyweight D’Angelo Hamilton, an all-section football player.
“It’s nice having Landon and Michael at the front of the lineup and then you have D’Angelo closing up at the back end of the lineup,” coach Frank said. “It’s really a great set of bookends for us.”
Sophomores who are expected to contribute include Adam Haines, Joey Geller, and Adrian Valdez.
“We have all of that depth coming back,” coach Frank said. “Where we fit them in once we get into the season is always a challenge, but when you have that many kids who wrestled at the varsity level last year, it really lends to some excitement getting the season started.”
The section will provide some tough competition with schools such as Armstrong, Central Catholic, Kiski, Plum, and Shaler.
“We have good, tough teams in there,” coach Frank said. “We like seeing that good competition in our section. We’d rather wrestle good competition throughout the year. It helps our kids prepare. I’d rather them see good wrestlers, even if it means taking losses, so we know what we need to work on and how to get better.”
The team opens its season on Wednesday, December 6, at home against North Hills before participating in a dual meet tournament at Hampton a few days later.
“(The tournament) sort of helps set the stage for us as to what we need to work on as a team,” coach Frank said. “A lot of kids get a lot of wrestling. It gets their season started real quick in a good way.”
A story about the Fox Chapel Area girls wrestling pilot program will be published on Tuesday, December 5.