The Burgettstown High School wrestling team is aiming for the WPIAL Class AA team championship this season.
While the Blue Devils could find themselves in the mix for that title, which has been won by the Burrell Bucs 13 consecutive seasons, the first steps toward that goal must be taken this weekend.
Burgettstown begins its quest today in the opening rounds of the annual Chartiers-Houston High School Tournament.
“The goals as always for us is the section and WPIAL championships,” said head coach Joe Vigliotti. “But the main goal is to help these young men to gain scholarships and money to help them to further their educations.
“We fell a little short last season in the (team tournament). We’d like to get to that team championship final.”
Burgettstown is one of seven Washington County schools entered in the two-day Chartiers-Houston Tournament. West Greene will represent Greene County and South Fayette is one of a handful of Allegheny County schools that will be in the event, which is in its 24th year and features its largest field with 29 teams.
The other Washington County schools entered include Beth-Center, Bentworth, host Chartiers-Houston, Fort Cherry, Peters Township and Washington.
Preliminary-round action begins at 4 p.m. today with semifinals (11 a.m.) and championship bouts (3 p.m.) Saturday.
The tournament features six returning champions: two-time PIAA champion Sam Hillegas and Matt Serwatka of North Hills, Elizabeth Forward’s Dylan Bruce, Jimmy Gwyer of Beth-Center, Chartiers Valley’s Christopher Beatty, and Donovan McMillon of Peters Township.
Burgettstown’s most accomplished wrestler is senior heavyweight Riley Kemper, who is a returning WPIAL champion. He was a regional placewinner last season and won two bouts in the PIAA championships.
Kemper will have to work his way through a difficult 275-pound weight class that sees the return of a number of the top competitors in the WPIAL and region this season.
Kemper has signed to play football at Robert Morris University next fall. He was a key member of the Blue Devils’ football team that won back-to-back conference championships.
Others Burgettstown are counting on to defend its section title include: senior Shane Ilgenfritz at 106- or 113-pounds; sophomores Anthony Lancos and Hunter Guibby, who will vie for spots at 132- and 138-pounds; junior Shane Kemper (152); and sophomore D.J. Slovick, who won 27 bouts last season and was a regional qualifier. Vigliotti said he’ll participate at either 170- or 182-pounds.
“We have some gaps to fill,” Vigliotti said. “Most of the kids on our team have been wrestling their entire lives. Winning the section last season created more interest in our program.”
Burgettstown’s lone WPIAL Class AA Team Tournament championship came in 1974 – the first season of the team event.
The coach said the Blue Devils enter the season with a 28-person roster that includes three females.
“Our kids are homegrown and it’s a pride thing,” Vigliotti said. “I feel good about our program. You can never count out Beth-Center and McGuffey, and South Park is a sleeper in the section and Burrell is obviously the team to beat in the WPIAL.
“You never know what can happen with injuries or in certain weight classes. Nothing is guaranteed. I think we can hang with anybody.”