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The high school sports seasons in Pennsylvania were brought to a sudden end before they began last spring, and the fall seasons have been played with safer, socially distant guidelines. But what hasn’t changed in high school athletics is the recruiting game.

Local athletes continued to be recruited by schools, whether it be Division I, II or III programs.

The NCAA’s fall signing period began last week and myriad of athletes signed national letters of intent for the 2021-22 season. Among them are recruits headed to Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia along with other Division I and Division II programs.

Waynesburg is expected to be one of the top high school wrestling programs in the state this year after finishing as the runner-up in the PIAA Class AAA Team Tournament last season. One of the key wrestlers for the Raiders is Luca Augustine, who signed with Pitt. He is one of five wrestlers to sign with the Panthers this month.

A three-time section champion, Augustine has 101 career victories and made it to the PIAA semifinals last season, when he finished in sixth place at 160 pounds. He had an 18-match winning streak that included nine pins.

“We’ve known about Luca for a few years and have closely followed his development,” said Pitt coach Keith Gavin. “First, we love his work ethic. He’s really come on the last two years, which hasn’t been surprising to us because we’ve always liked his potential. He’s beaten some good wrestlers and we’re excited about his future, for sure.”

n Wyatt Henson, Augustine’s teammate at Waynesburg, signed with national powerhouse Iowa.

Henson was the first wrestler to commit in the Hawkeyes’ 2021 recruiting class. He placed fifth in the PIAA Championships as a freshman in 2018, then wrestled for Christian Brothers in the St Louis area in 2019 and won a Missouri state championship. Back at Waynesburg last winter, Henson had a 47-4 record and won WPIAL and PIAA championships, beating two-time state champion Sam Hillegas of North Hills in the 138-pound finals of each tournament.

n Trinity girls basketball player Courtney Dahlquist had committed to Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, during the summer. She is one of four players to sign with the Camels.

As a post player, Dahlquist sparked Trinity to a 21-8 record last season, a spot in the WPIAL Class 4A championship game and the PIAA quarterfinals before the latter tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dahlquist averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game, spending much of her time in the low post with her back to the basket. She could transition to a wing at the collegiate level.

“Courtney is an extremely talented player with the size and versatility to make an immediate impact in our program,” said Campbell coach Ronny Fisher. “At 6-3, she moves like a guard and loves to step out and knock down the three. She is solid in the low post as well and can finish with both hands around the basket. Courtney also thrives on the defensive end with a long wingspan and the ability to move her feet. I love her upside and I believe Courtney has the skill and work ethic to develop into a dominant player in our league.”

Campbell won the Big South Conference regular-season title last season, finishing with a 21-8 overall record and 16-4 mark in the league.

n Jimmy Sadler, who was a standout this fall for the Chartiers-Houston football team, signed with West Virginia for baseball. He’s part of a Mountaineers recruiting class that is ranked No. 40 nationally.

Sadler is a shortstop who has been a starter since his freshman year. He is a two-time all-section pick and was named to the All-WPIAL team as a sophomore. Sadler is rated a top-500 prospect by Perfect Game and the No. 3 shortstop in Pennsylvania.

“Jimmy is a phenomenal athlete with the ability to play shortstop at the highest levels,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “He is an instinctual player with incredible feel for the game. He is a sparkplug that can hit, defend, throw and steal bases. We fell in love with Jimmy after watching the energy he brings every day on the field. He is a player that can make an immediate impact on the field, and his aggressiveness matches the tempo the Mountaineers play with.”

n Noah Burke, an outfielder for the Canon-McMillan baseball team, signed with Penn State. He’s part of a recruiting class that is ranked No. 49 in the nation.

Burke is a three-year letterman at Canon-McMillan.

“A homegrown PA kid who plays the game hard,” Penn State coach Rob Cooper said describing Burke. “He’s a middle-of-the-order left-handed hitter. He has balance and rhythm and his hands work quick to contact with gap-to-gap power. We’re very excited about his potential and what he could possibly add to the middle of the order.”

n Rhea Kijowski of Waynesburg signed with West Virginia as part of the Mountianeers’ 11-player women’s soccer recruiting class.

Kijowski, a forward, scored more than 100 career goals and had 60 assists. She is a two-time member of the All-WPIAL team, leading Waynesburg in goals and assists three different seasons.

n Trinity softball player Emma Morgan signed with Toledo.

A center fielder, Morgan has a .527 career batting average, a .559 on-base percentage and five home runs. She was a first team all-section selection in 2019. A multi-sport athlete, Morgan has earned six varsity letters in softball and volleyball.

“We’ve watched Emma for two or three years and she is an excellent outfielder who produces consistently at the plate,” Toledo coach Joe Abraham said. “Emma really fits the type of girl we like to bring into the program, which is one where all of her coaches insist that, ‘You’ll never have any problems with Emma.’ She is 100 percent coachable and just a joy to have around.”

n Ian Shahan of Belle Vernon was one of the best swimmers in the WPIAL and state over the last two years. He has won two straight WPIAL Class AA titles in both the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard freestyle. He won PIAA championships in each of those events during his sophomore season. The PIAA Championships were canceled last spring.

Shahan has committed to Army.

n Waynesburg baseball player Tyler Switalski signed with Gardner-Webb. A left-handed pitcher/first baseman, Switalski had a .364 batting average with 20 RBI during his sophomore season. He was named one of the top 500 high school players by Perfect Game.

Among the other local athletes who recently signed letters of intent are:

n Belle Vernon four-sport (cross country, soccer, basketball and track) standout Grace Henderson, who signed with Akron and will compete in track.

n Belle Vernon’s Izzy Laurita, with Georgia State (soccer).

n Canon-McMillan’s Kolson DeSocio, with Alderson-Broaddus (baseball).

n Canon-McMillan’s Alexis Feltz, with Pitt-Johnstown (track).

n Canon-McMillan’s Tyler Greenleaf, with Canisius (baseball).

n Canon-McMillan’s Sami Snyder, with Mercyhurst (soccer).

n Canon-McMillan’s Olivia Ulam, with St. Francis (softball)

n Peters Township’s Emma Sawich with St. Francis (soccer)

n South Fayette’s Morgan Young with Gannon (lacrosse)

n Trinity’s Bayleigh McCullough, with Niagara (softball)

n Waynesburg’s Mikie Culp-Alston with Ursuline (soccer)

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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