Macri, Chishko named Almanac Grapplers of the Year

Published Mar 19, 2014 at 12:22 am (Updated Mar 19, 2014 at 12:22 am)

The road to a state championship is paved with a lot of agony, plenty of passion and tons of toil. Just ask Dalton Macri and Solomon Chishko of Canon-McMillan.

“When I first started wrestling,” said Macri, “I was horrible. My first year, I won maybe 25 percent of my matches, but I kept getting better by working hard. The secret to success is,” continued the 18-year-old grappler, “you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t work hard, it will catch up with you.”

But sometimes, injuries catch up to a wrestler. Chishko certainly battled his. He missed all of the 2013 team competition, when the Big Macs captured WPIAL and PIAA trophies, because of bad breaks. However, he wrestled 11 matches, winning all of them and claiming his first state title. In 2014, though he started the season injured, he again clinched a state crown.

“Solomon had different demons to battle,” explained Big Mac head coach Jason Cardillo. “Last year, he worked hard and came back from the hurt elbow. He had a rough start this year but finished strong to take the championship.

“Two different wrestlers. Two different paths,” Cardillo continued of Macri and Chishko. “But they both found a way.”

After finishing runner-up in 2013, Macri won his state title at 126. Chishko repeated at 145. They were also WPIAL and Southwest Regional champions. Macri posted a 40-2 record while Chishko finished 27-0 before both competed in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. Macri won his bout, 9-3, against Nathan Boston from Woodford County, Ky. He gained outstanding wrestler honors in wrapping up his career with a 134-15 record. Chishko finished 132-9 after his loss to Joe McKenna from Blair Academy.

Both agreed the event was, to borrow Macri’s words, ‘tons of fun’ and a ‘great way to close out their careers’ before heading off to college.

Macri, who maintains a 3.8 GPA, is headed for Cornell University where he will study biology in the hopes of pursuing a career in medicine or physical therapy. Chishko plans to major in environmental sciences while wrestling at Virginia Tech. He begins both classes and training this summer.

“My goal is to go to the NCAAs and get better,” said the 18-year-old son of Tom and Leeanne Chishko. “In wrestling there is always room for improvement. It’s hard to say anything is perfect. It’s never perfect. You can work on your feet, your technique, everywhere.”

Strength is Chishko’s primary asset. In addition to training at high school and at Quest, his father serves as his personal trainer and has designed his lifting program, ever since he owned a Gold’s gym. He lifts as much weight as possible while maintaining perfect form. “It’s all based on pure strength,” he said.

Pure passion propelled Macri. Last year’s defeat in the state final motivated him. “It was always in my mind. I made the most of it and made sure I was prepared. I never quit. That’s my style. Always attacking and always moving forward.”

When he moves forward to Cornell, Macri has one goal in mind. His expectations are to become a national champion. “Preferably multiple times,” he said. “I’m looking for success on the mats and in my academics also.”

As people, Cardillo claims, Macri and Chishko are already successes.

“You won’t find two better kids,” he said. “They put their families and wrestling for their school and community first. For as accomplished as they are, you won’t find any nicer kids. They are both very humble. Not arrogant,” he added. “Just very hard workers.”

For their efforts this winter, Macri and Chishko have been named Almanac Most Valuable Grapplers.

Price joins duo

Brendan Price joins Macri and Chishko on the all-star roster. The C-M senior completed his career at 112-24 and with a win for the WPIAL all-stars in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. In racking up a 37-7 record this winter, Price earned his second section title. A two-time Powerade placewinner, he finished fourth in the WPIAL and Southwest Regional.

Lebo at its best

Under Bill Lewis, wrestling is back at Mt. Lebanon. This winter, the Peters Township product took the Blue Devils far. For the first time since 1998, the program has had its first state medalists and first duo to place since 1985. Plus, the Blue Devils have a new all-time career winner, topping Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle.

In addition to posting a 13-6 record and qualifying for the playoffs, the Blue Devils were runner-up in the Allegheny County championships and Hampton Duals. At the WPIAL, they finished 10th overall and at the PIAA championships, they had a Top 20 finish, placing 18th out of 137 schools. Individually, Lewis coached three individuals to the podium during sectionals and qualified seven wrestlers to the district championships, putting two in the finals.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids and staff this year,” said Lewis, whose own assistant, Marc Allemang, garnered the assistant coach of the year award during the WPIAL and Southwest Regional tournament.

For his efforts, too, it made sense to name Bill Lewis as The Almanac Coach of the Year. Four of his protégés also gained recognition on the all-star list.

Kellan Stout leads the list. After a runner-up finish at Powerade, the junior won the Allegheny County championships and a section title. He earned silver medals at the district, regional and state level. In addition to breaking the school record for victories, Stout also earned his 100th career victory during the state semifinals. He posted a 36-4 record this year.

“Kellan had a great year. It is quite an accomplishment to reach the finals of the state championships and it was a special moment when he won his 100th match and joined an elite group of wrestlers in the PIAA Century Club,” Lewis said. “We couldn’t be more proud of him and what he has done for Mt. Lebanon wrestling this year and for what he has accomplished on the mat.”

Zeynul Zaynullayev has accomplished nearly as much. The junior posted a 35-7 record. He was a county and section champion before finishing runner-up in the district and regional. He placed eighth in the state.

“Everything seemed to start to come together for Zeynul in Hershey,” Lewis said. “He has showed a lot of progress this season and proved that he can compete with the best of them across the state. “We look forward to both he and Kellan returning next season and continuing their quest to be at the top of the podium next March.”

Though his quest ended in the first rounds of the PIAA tournament when he lost his opener to the two-time champion and his consolation bout to a sixth-place finisher, Kevin Kinyua enjoyed a successful senior season. He finished 30-7 overall after winning a section title and placing third in the WPIAL.

“Kevin has come far over the past four years,” Lewis said. “He had a great run in the postseason.

“He is one of the most passionate wrestlers I have coached in all my years and one of the hardest workers. It was very special to see Kevin realize one of his dreams when he qualified for the PIAA tournament.”

Bakhtiyar Zaynullaev completes the Lebo all-star list. The junior finished 27-10 in his 195-pound weight class. He placed sixth at Powerade, fourth in the county championships and second in the section. He was a WPIAL qualifier.

Trio leads Lions

South Fayette experienced a success season on the mats, both team-wise and individually, thanks in part to Andrew John, Mike Carr and Jared (JJ) Walker. As a team, the Lions finished runner-up to Burrell in the WPIAL Class AA championships and advanced to the PIAA team finals. Additionally, they advanced three wrestlers, including Grant Fetchet, who owns the school record for victories with 141 wins, to the state individual tournament. All three came home with medals, ranging from silver through fifth.

Walker was that silver medalist. The junior dropped a 9-3 decision to Kyle Bova from Coudersport in the 160-pound championship bout.

“JJ had an outstanding state tournament even though he finished second,” said SF head coach Rick Chaussard. “He had two dominating wins early, then a hard-fought exiting win in the semifinals. While the loss in the finals hurt, looking back, JJ can hold his head high for he accomplished much.

Walker, who helped the Lions win a state title in football, rolled up a 43-2 record, winning a WPIAL and Southwest Regional title, this winter. He is 113-26 overall.

Although he fell short of a state title, Carr, likewise, had a fine season. He suffered his first loss of the season in the PIAA opener but recovered to finish fifth in the state. A sophomore, Carr posted a 44-2 record this winter. A WPIAL and Southwest Regional champion, he is 73-15 in his career.

“Mike had a great season,” said Chaussard. “He just came up a little short at states. He recovered nicely and finished his season strong.”

In only his second season of wrestling, John posted a 34-16 record. A Southwest Regional qualifier, he finished runner-up in the section and third in the WPIAL.

Dunn leads BP pair

Bethel Park placed two wrestlers on The Almanac all-star list. Paul Dunn nailed down the 152-pound weight class while Nino Bonaccorsi claimed Rookie of the Year laurels.

Motivated by the memory of his father, Paul Jr., who passed away unexpectedly Dec. 16, 2013, Dunn put together an amazing tournament run that culminated in a PIAA bronze medal.

After dropping his first match in the WPIAL and Southwest Regional tournament, Dunn won five straight matches and qualified for the state tournament. During the PIAA tournament, the junior suffered only one loss to the eventual champion, TC Warner from Cumberland Valley. Also at the state championships, Dunn upended the WPIAL runner-up, Jake Shaffer, and beat three regional champions to finish third. He posted a 35-10 record for the year.

“To do what Paul did is an unbelievable story,” said BP head coach Bob Stewart. “That he alone qualified for states would be a great ending but to place third is just a true testament that hard work and determination really does pay off.

“Paul has overcome a lot of adversities this year and everyone from Bethel Park, including myself,” continued Stewart, “could not be more proud of him.”

Only a freshman, Bonaccorsi posted a 29-9 record. A section runner-up, he fell one match short of gaining a PIAA championship bid. He finished fourth in the WPIAL and lost in overtime, 3-1, during the Southwestern Regional consolation match. Buckiso, a Peters Township senior who is bound for the Citadel, owned a 133-27 record and competed for the WPIAL squad in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic.

Wilps, Roper shine

Chartiers Valley earned two spots on The Almanac all-star list.

Noah Wilps filled the 170-pound slot while Michael Roper garnered recognition at 220 pounds.

A senior, Wilps concluded his career with a 111-48 record and a fourth-place finish in the state championships. Wilps reached the semifinals before falling to four-time champion Chance Marsteller from Kennard-Dale.

“Noah did a fantastic job,” said CV head coach Billy Evans. “Taking home fourth place in a bracket full of so many talented wrestlers was the perfect way to finish off a great career. He did it all with hard work.

“I am extremely proud of the wrestler and the individual that he has become over the last four years.”

This winter, Wilps not only entered the Century Club, he rolled up a 33 victories against only four losses, two of them to Marsteller as he lost to him also in the finals of the Powerade Tournament. Wilps was a section and WPIAL champion this season as well as the winner at the Chartiers-Houston and Buckeye Local tournaments.

While Wilps will wrestle at the University of Pittsburgh next season, Roper returns for another season of scholastic wrestling. The junior amassed a 28-7 record this winter. He earned runner-up honors at the Allegheny County tournament, placed third at the CH and Buckeye tournaments, and won a section title. He was one match away from gaining a medal at Powerade.

“Michael only started wrestling in ninth grade,” pointed out Evans. “He possibly is the best natural athlete that I have ever coached. There’s a huge future ahead for this kid.”

CH gains one

Richie McGinnis from Chartiers-Houston completes the list of Almanac all-stars. This senior placed third in the WPIAL and fourth in the Southwest Regional. Though he posted an 0-2 record, he did qualify and competed in the PIAA Class AA tournament. McGinnis finished 35-14 on the year.

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