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Hopewell Wrestling Program Has 8 Wrestlers Qualify For WPIAL Championships

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This is an important weekend for the Hopewell High School Wrestling program as eight of their wrestlers will compete in the WPIAL Wrestling Championships.

Those eight athletes qualified following their performance at the just completed 2024 WPIAL AA Northern Section Championship.

Let me explain the Northern Section Championship how these Hopewell wrestlers qualified. WPIAL AA Wrestling has six sections (Northern, Southern and Eastern) and Hopewell competes in the Northern Section with 17 other schools from Section 2 and 3.

This past weekend was the Northern Section Championship and in order to qualify for the WPIAL Wrestling Championships, a wrestler has to finish in the Top 6 of their weight class. Impressively, the Hopewell program had 8 wrestlers that were able to do this:

Isaiah Pisano: 1st place
Jacob Bauknight: 2nd place
Austin Gouza: 3rd place
Enzo Wright: 4th place
Jacob Medich: 4th place
Vincent Boris: 5th place
Justin Obeldobel: 5th place
Hank Berner: 6th place

Pisano was the champion of his bracket and will start Friday’s WPIAL Championship Tournament as the No. 1 seed of the 160-pound weight classification.

This is an impressive overall accomplishment for the Hopewell Wrestling program so congratulations to 1st year Head Coach Brett Smith and his entire staff for the work that they put in this season with the program.

On Monday, Hopewell Sports Nation had the opportunity to talk with Coach Smith and got his thoughts on these 8 athletes and what it’s been like to coach them this season.

Isaiah Pisano: “He is so athletic, so strong. It was so great, I was so excited to get this job, being a Hopewell alum and everything. I have big, big goals for this program and to be able to walk in and have him be the senior, to help me as a first-year coach, it’s been unbelievable. The way he carries himself both on and off the mat, just unbelievable. He has just a great support system, comes from a great family.”

“For me it was a blessing. What’s funny is, when I got hired, I stay in contact with a lot of guys because I was just over in South Fayette. When I got hired, I thought Isaiah was a senior last year and I was talking to one of the dads. He was like, at least you have Isaiah to build around and I was like ‘What’? He was like, yeah, he’ll be a senior this year. I’m not kidding you, that made my year. I was jumping up and down in my house, ‘Wow’.”

“Just to have him back. He stays around and helps the youth kids. He’s the exact, perfect template of what you want people on your team to be. So, to have him for one year and to have him be able to set the standard, it’s been absolutely, amazing.”

Hank Berner: “Hank is my man. Absolutely great kid. One of the hardest working kids in the room. I don’t think he wrestled in the section tournament last year. He’s a big football guy and loves football and I talked to him about wrestling in the section tournament this year. He avenged a couple of losses in the section tournament to qualify. So, this is the first time he’s qualified for the WPIAL Tournament as a junior. He’s a guy to build around for next season, I’m excited about that. Great kid, with a great work ethic.”

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Justin Obeldobel: “Again, first year, he wrestled junior high last year, so he’s a sophomore wrestling varsity. He’s wrestled his whole life, he’s got the technique, he’s got everything. He’s in a very, very, very tough weight class, especially for a young guy.”

He started the season and hit a couple of tough road bumps but since like the 8th match, he’s been something like 15-5. He’s wrestling awesome right now. Like a lot of our team, he’s a young guy, that I’m super excited that he’ll be back. I’m pretty sure he went unseeded on Saturday. He upset the No. 3 seed of the tournament and made the semifinals as a sophomore. It was awesome.”

Vincent Boris: “I call Vinny Boris and Justin, they’re buddies, the ‘Dynamic Duo’. Same thing, he’s a sophomore and in a very tough weight class. He was also unseeded going into the tournament and came out in 5th place. Avenged a couple of losses this year and I believe this was the first varsity tournament that he ever placed in. He has so much potential and he’s starting to turn it on at the right time. I’m excited about Vinny.”

Enzo Wright: “Enzo is a first-year wrestler, freshman. I remember when he came in earlier this year, obviously we needed a little guy in the lineup. He stepped on the scale, and I talked to him about wrestling at 107 for us. He didn’t even blink and said, “Sure whatever you need Coach” and that’s how he’s been this year. To have double-digit wins as a freshman in a varsity lineup is absolutely unbelievable. Then on top of that to qualify for the WPIAL Championships as a freshman, he’s done everything and more that we’ve asked of him. Plus, he’s wrestling at 107 and giving up some weight because he super little and he’s probably 100-pounds soaking wet. He’s more than exceeded my expectations.”

Jacob Medich: “Jake, kind of same thing as Enzo. He’s a freshman this year and I talked to him about moving up. He came from a really good junior high team last year. Same thing, he continually has gotten better and better and better. He works so hard in the room. He’s such a great kid and comes from a great family. Again, I think that was the first varsity tournament that he was on the podium. Unseeded wrestler and gets Top six and moves on to the WPIAL Championships.  I’m really excited about Jake and he like a lot of our guys is wrestling awesome right now.”

Austin Gouza: “He’s definitely one of the leaders on our team for sure. He got a little bit of an upset over the weekend but bounces back and wrestles so tough. He practices with Isaiah every day. He’s only a junior and definitely one of the leaders on our team. He’s a quiet kid but definitely flips the switch when he hits the mat. Without a doubt, top three, if not the hardest worker in the room. Puts in a lot of time, goes to a lot of wrestling clubs. A really good kid.”

Jacob Bauknight: “Jacob is in the exact same category as Gouza. I can’t say enough good things about Jacob Bauknight. I tell him this all the time, he’s the definition of hard work, he just outworks people.”

“I believe he was the 7th seed and he upset the No. 3 seed and the No. 2 seed to make the finals. He’s come so, so far and he’s another kid that I coached when he was in youth. He literally outworks people. I wish I had 15 Jacob Bauknight’s on my team.”

Having the opportunity to speak with Coach Smith, you could just tell the excitement he has for this weekend but for the immediate future of the Hopewell Wrestling program.

“Yeah, Jacob, Hank and Austin will be seniors next year,” said Smith. “To have them returning and some of the other wrestlers that I talked about previously, especially the WPIAL qualifiers as a freshman. From the freshman to the sophomores and juniors on this team. Plus, our junior high team went undefeated this year, the future is very, very, very bright for Hopewell wrestling. I’m super excited about it. We have an awesome group of junior high kids coming up and the guys that we’ll be leaning on next year, aside from the 3 seniors, we’ll be able to lean on them again because they’re just sophomores and freshman. Obviously, Isaiah is an enormous piece to try and replace, we have strength in numbers. To have 8 WPIAL qualifiers and 7 of them returning, I can’t ask for more than that.”

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