The 3rd Toughest Tournament
in the USA
according to 

 No one could argue about the strength of the annual POWERade Christmas Wrestling Tournament.

 The numbers overwhelmingly suggest how tough a tournament it is.  The participating teams and wrestlers are as good as anywhere in the country for an in-season tournament.

 It seems POWERade just gets better and better and stronger and stronger.

 "I think we’re as strong as we ever have been," said Frank Vulcano Jr., tournament director since 1985. "It continues to be one of the top tournaments in the country."

 The 43rd annual POWERade Christmas Wrestling tournament will be held December 29-30, 2009 at Canon-McMillan High School.  The tournament will feature 44 teams from all over Pennsylvania, and a handful of teams from the states of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, and West Virginia.

 New teams entered this year include: Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Christiansburg (Va.), Collins Hill (Ga.), Corry (Pa.) of District 10, Hopewell, Kissimmee Osceola (Fla.), LaSalle College (Pa.) of District 12, Moeller (Ohio), Shamokin (Pa.) of District 4, Solon (Ohio), and St. Paul's (Md.).

 Teams returning to the field are Albert Gallatin, Bellefonte (Pa.) of District 6,Benton (Pa.) of District 4, Bethel Park, Blue Mountain (Pa.) of District 11, Burgettstown, Burrell, Canon-McMillan, Cedar Cliff (Pa.) of District 3, Central Dauphin (Pa.) of District 3, Chartiers-Houston, Connellsville, Council Rock North (Pa.) of District 1, Delone Catholic (Pa.) of District 3, Derry Area, Franklin Regional, Hempfield, Latrobe, McGuffey, Mt. Pleasant, Mt. St. Joseph (Md.), Parkersburg (W.Va.),  Penn-Trafford, Pleasant Valley (Pa.) of District 11, Ripley (W.Va.), Shady Side Academy, South Side Beaver, State College (Pa.) of District 6, Trinity, Waynesburg, West Allegheny, West Greene, and Westmont Hilltop (Pa.) of District 6.

 The POWERade Tournament has produced a PIAA champion the last 31 straight years.

 The tournament, founded in 1967 by Frank Vulcano Sr., is respected throughout the state and country and is held between Christmas and New Year’s each December.  When the tournament was known as the California University Christmas Wrestling Tournament, it was held on the campus of California University.

 Vulcano Sr., enjoyed a coaching tenure at California that spanned three decades.  He compiled a 181-95-3 dual meet record as the Vulcans’ head coach from 1968 through 1984.  He was an assistant at California in 1966 and 1967. 

 As the tournament grew in size it also grew in stature. Vulcano, who directed the tournament from its inception, turned the reins over to his son, Frank Jr.

In 1995, the tournament’s name was changed after receiving a corporate sponsorship from POWERade and the Cameron Coca-Cola Co. in Washington.  The venue has changed as the tournament was moved from California to Trinity High School and then to Canon-McMillan High School.

The tournament has hosted a number of great teams and outstanding individuals. Twenty wrestlers who participated in POWERade went on to capture NCAA or NAIA championships. The list includes: Waynesburg High’s Josh Kosheck, a 2001 NCAA Division I at Edinboro University; Bill DePaoli, a two-time NAIA champion at California University; Nate Carr, a three-time NCAA Division I champion from Iowa State; Ken Hackman, a two-time NCAA Division II champion from Derry High School and California University; Scott Collins, West Virginia University’s first NCAA division I champion; Oklahoma State’s Alan Fried, a 1994 NCAA Division I champion; two-time NCAA Division I and four-time PIAA champion Cary Kolat of Jefferson-Morgan High School and Lock Haven University; Iowa’s three-time NCAA Division I champion Joe Williams; Penn-Trafford’s Lee Schickel, a NCAA Division II champion at Pitt-Johnstown; North Allegheny’s Teague Moore of a 1998 NCAA Division I champion at Oklahoma State; T.J. Williams, a two-time NCAA Division I champion from Iowa University, Tony Davis, a national champion for Northern Iowa in 2000; Mt. Pleasant’s Brandon Newill, a 2002 NCAA Division II champion at Pitt-Johnstown; Mt. Pleasant’s Robby Waller; North Allegheny’s Jake Herbert, a two-time NCAA Division I champion at Northwestern; Waynesburg High’s Coleman Scott, an NCAA Division I champion at Oklahoma State; Mike Pucillo, a 2008 NCAA Division I champion at Ohio State; Canon-McMillan’s Albert Miles, a 2008 NCAA Division II champion at Pitt-Johnstown; Connellsville’s Jarrod King, a 2009 NCAA Division I champion at Edinboro University; and Burrell’s Josh Shields, a 2009 NCAA Division II champion at Mercyhurst College.The tournament has produced a state champion every year since 1977.

 "The tournament is one of the oldest in the country," Vulcano, Jr. said. "And we think it is one of the premier tournaments in the country. This is something I wanted to continue and maintain the rich tradition it has.

 "It’s an impressive list of state champions and NCAA champions who have participated in this tournament. Some have even gone beyond that and are on a world class level."

 Ty Moore of North Allegheny is the only four-time Christmas tournament champion, but 14 others have captured three individual crowns.

 Two of the most noteworthy championships in the tournament’s history came 10 years apart. In 1978, Nate Carr of Erie Tech captured the 155-pound title and in 1988, Cary Kolat of Jefferson-Morgan burst onto the scholastic scene by ripping through a series of accomplished wrestlers to claim the 119-pound title.

 "To have a wrestler like Cary start his career in this tournament was very special," Vulcano, Jr. said. "There have been so many good ones over the years. Cary and Nate are certainly two of the top former participants."

 Some of the top wrestling programs in the country have participated in this tournament.  Chartiers-Houston, which captured seven Christmas tournament championships, was also a Pennsylvania (PIAA) champion in 1982 and has participated since the tournament’s inception.  State championship teams who have participated were: Mt. Carmel, Illinois (3 Christmas tournament titles), North Allegheny, Pennsylvania (2 Christmas tournament titles), Central Dauphin, Pennsylvania (2 Christmas tournament titles), Clearfield, Pennsylvania (1 Christmas tournament title), St. Edwards, Ohio (1 Christmas tournament title), Brandon, Florida, Danville, Pennsylvania, Parkersburg, West Virginia, Poquoson, Virginia, and Walsh Jesuit, Ohio (2 Christmas tournament titles).

 The 2010 tournament’s corporate sponsor is Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Eastern Great Lakes, a Coca-Cola Enterprises company located in Houston, PA.

 The championship finals will be held at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30.

 By John E. Sacco & Ken Wunderley
Tri-State Sports & News Service