The Seneca Valley wrestling team posted a 5-14 record during the 2011-12 season, Kevin Wildrick's first as head coach. The Raiders recorded only one victory in section play and were 2-8 in a pair of dual-meet tournaments.
"It was a tough season, but the important thing is that I saw improvement every week," said Wildrick, who came to Seneca Valley after seven years as an assistant at North Allegheny. "We had a young group that bought into what we wanted to do."
Wildrick is now halfway through his second season and the Raiders have significantly improved. Seneca Valley entered the week with a 12-4 overall record, which includes a 3-2 mark in Class AAA Section 3A.
Seneca Valley finished third in its sub-section, thus qualifying for last night's section tournament. The Raiders faced North Hills in a consolation for fifth place, with the winner earning a berth in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament.
"The kids have been willing to put in the time and effort required to have a successful program," Wildrick said. "Just take a look at what we've been able to accomplish this season and it's obvious that we have significantly improved."
Seneca Valley hasn't qualified for the WPIAL team tournament since 2002.
"My goal is to build a program that is an annual WPIAL qualifier," Wildrick said.
Seneca Valley has reversed its results in dual tournaments this season. The Raiders posted a 4-1 record at Hampton's Dawg Duals, with its only loss coming in the title match to Hampton. Two weeks ago, the Raiders posted a 4-1 mark at the South Side Beaver Duals, with its only loss to Greenville.
"We had a young team last season, and still have a young team," Wildrick said. "It's been fun watching them mature."
Wildrick had only three senior starters on his first squad. This year's squad has a similar look, as only three seniors were in the starting lineup over the weekend at the Burgettstown Tournament.
"I was very impressed with our performance," said Wildrick, when asked about Seneca Valley's second-place finish in the team standings at Burgettstown. "It's the second straight year that we finished second."
Seneca Valley had eight of its 14 entries earn place-winner status by finishing among the top six in their weight class. The Raiders top place-winner was Nick Zoria, who placed second at 120 pounds. His only loss was to Hopewell's Travis Sonson, 7-2, in the title match.
Other place-winners for Seneca Valley were Alex Lynch (fifth at 106), Ben Lynch (fifth at 113), Austin Leon (third at 145), Stephen Rudolph (sixth at 160), Jake Eaton (fourth at 182), Sean Stanek (fifth at 195) and Tyler Miller (fourth at 220).
"Alex and Ben are identical twins who both weigh 106 pounds," Wildrick said. "Alex is technically the starter at 106, but we've also used Ben at that weight. I move one up a weight class, depending on the situation and opponent."
Wildrick is also pleased that Anthony Latess has returned to the lineup, after spending the first six weeks of the season on the injured list. Latess led the Raiders with 24 victories last season.
"He suffered an injury during the preseason," said Wildrick. "He returned for the South Side Beaver Duals. It's good to have him back."
Taking it to the mat
• Pine-Richland placed ninth in the 27-team field at the Burgettstown tournament. The Rams had four place-winners, including two silver medalists, David Kelly and Brendan Burnham.
Kelly placed second at 126 after a 7-2 loss to South Park's Greg Bulsak in the title match. Burnham was the runner-up at 160 after an 11-5 loss to Cody Law of Forest Hills. Also placing for the Rams were Conner Renkey (sixth at 106) and Pat Kline (third at 285).
• Shaler finished 12th in the team standings and had four place-winners, including runner-up Aaron Rouda, who was pinned by Beth-Center's Zach Swarrow in the 113-pound final. Also placing for Shaler were Mike Heinl (third at 106), Jordan McGonigle (sixth at 126) and Austin Heinl (sixth at 132). McGonigle withdrew from the tournament after winning in the semifinals.
• Highlands had two place-winners: Nolan Wise (fifth at 138) and Allan Cratsenberg (third at 220).
• North Catholic had two place-winners, Josh Churchin (sixth at 170) and Josh Szramowski (sixth at 182).