ESPN RISE takes a look at the teams to watch this month in this area:
Wrestling -- Burrell
Apparently the fourth time is the charm. That's how many consecutive times the Burrell wrestling team had been to the PIAA Class AA state tournament. On the fourth trip, the team earned a state title. "It was a culmination of talent and experience," says coach Chris Como. "Our kids knew how to handle the environment." A young group of wrestlers led the charge last year. With the departure of six teammates to graduation, those wrestlers will have to step up again this season. Sophomore Jeremy Landowski earned a trip to last year's state tourney and hopes to return this season. "He's a gritty competitor," Como says. "He was part of a great freshman class last year."Fellow sophomore Travis McKillop finished just shy of placing at the state tournament but won the district and regional tournaments. "We have high expectations for him and he hasn't disappointed," Como says. Junior Nolan Greenwald and senior Tyler Berger bring experience to this year's team. Berger, a captain, fell just short of the state tournament last year, and that's made him more hungry than ever. "He's put in extra time and training this offseason," Como says. "He's dedicated himself to taking that next step." Sophomores Dave Makara and Brian Beattie are other wrestlers to watch this season. "I think we have a strong core,"Como says of his team. "The baton has been passed."
Girls' Basketball -- Norwin
The Knights had lost only one game entering the WPIAL Class AAAA state tournament and were heavy favorites to advance through the bracket. Unfortunately, an upstart team from Oakland Catholic had other ideas, knocking off Norwin in a big upset. This season, the Knights have visions of revenge, even without the services of now-graduated Lindsey Loutsenhizer. Look for the terrific guard tandem of junior Nicky Costabile and senior Emily Duncan to help lead the way.
Boys' Basketball -- Central Cambria
The Red Devils earned a taste of the PIAA state tourney last year when they earned a berth and won their first-round contest against Ambridge in the Class AAA tournament. This year, expect Central Cambria to have its sights set much higher, particularly with a core of veterans leading the way. Senior Jordan Miller and junior Brian Holsinger, who both earned ESPN RISE All-Area second team selections, will be counted on to lead the way for the Red Devils.
Girls' Swimming -- Bethel Park
The question will be asked more than once this season: Can anyone top Bethel Park? It will be a difficult task for WPIAL teams again this season, but with several seniors gone, many of whom earned individual WPIAL titles last year, the team will be forced to rely on its depth. Look for senior Becca Zimmer, one of the region's best distance swimmers, to help shoulder the load. Senior Natalie Keibler and junior Leslie Keibler are also excellent competitors.
BREAK OUT TEAMS
BOYS' SWIMMING -- BELLE VERNON
Junior Brendan Lacey is one of the WPIAL's top distance swimmers.
GIRLS' SWIMMING -- INDIANA
Ellie Bobick and Ashlee Rice, both juniors, lead a talented 200 free relay team.
BOYS' ICE HOCKEY -- SHALER
Led by All-Star junior Zac Lynch, the Titans are primed for a big season.
GYMNASTICS -- BEAVER
Junior Cassandra Ringer should contend for the all-around title this year.
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