Twelve boys bidding for athlete of year award

Twelve boys bidding for athlete of year award

The talent pool of male athletes in Lawrence County once again proved to be stellar.

Athletes found individual as well as team success across a number of sports. And they did so at the district and state levels.

A total of 12 athletes distanced themselves from the rest of the pack. But who will stand tall at the end to capture the Lawrence County Male Athlete of the Year award? The winner will be announced in Saturday’s edition.

Following are the boys candidates in alphabetical order: 

CAELAN BENDER

WILMINGTON

Bender played football and basketball during his senior campaign at Wilmington.

In football, Bender claimed first-team all-state honors by the Pennsylvania Football News and the Pennsylvania Football Writers on the Class 2A squad. 

Bender earned first-team District 10, Region 4-2A all-region status for the Greyhounds.

Bender, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound quarterback/safety, was 70 of 127 passing for 1,341 yards with 21 touchdowns and just one interception. He ran for 477 yards on 89 attempts, while scoring nine touchdowns.

Wilmington posted a 12-1 overall record, winning its fourth straight District 10 championship. The Greyhounds were eliminated in the state semifinals by Avonworth.

Bender tossed in 10.5 points per game in basketball with 49 3-pointers. 

Wilmington compiled a 10-14 overall record on the hardwood, falling in the second round of the District 10 playoffs to Cambridge Springs.

TYLER BENEDICT

UNION 

Benedict, a senior, played football and basketball at Union.

A 6-foot, 185-pound quarterback/defensive back, Benedict ranked second in the county in passing. He was 121 of 207 through the air for 1,536 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

The 1,536 passing yards are a single-season school standard. Benedict surpassed the previous record, which was held by Don Nogay. Nogay established the record of 1,484 in 1989.

In addition, Benedict rushed for 216 yards on 95 carries, while scoring five touchdowns.

The Scotties finished 3-7.

In basketball, Benedict averaged 3.2 points a game in 23 contests.

Union finished 14-9, reaching the WPIAL playoffs and falling in the district quarterfinals.

Benedict will continue his academic and football career at Mercyhurst University.

AARON GUNN

UNION

Gunn, a junior, played football at Union.

A 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive and defensive lineman, was named first-team all-state as recognized by the Pennsylvania Football News as well as the Pennsylvania Football Writers.

Gunn earned first-team all-Big Seven Conference honors on the offensive and defensive lines.

Gunn signed a national letter-of-intent to continue his academic and football career at Louisville.

JASON KRANER

SHENANGO

Kraner, a senior, played football and basketball for Shenango.

Kraner, a 6-2, 180-pound wide receiver/defensive back, caught 43 passes for 782 yards. He led the county in both categories.

Kraner also scored eight touchdowns. He was named to the all-Midwestern Athletic Conference Top 22 team at wide receiver and defensive back.

On the hardwood, Kraner ranked second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points a game.

Shenango compiled a 19-7 overall mark. The Wildcats lost in the WPIAL semifinals and in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Kraner will continue his academic and football career at Wheeling Jesuit University.

ANTHONY LITRENTA

NEW CASTLE

Litrenta, a senior, ran cross country at New Castle.

Litrenta, who led the Red Hurricane to the WPIAL Class 2A cross country team championship in 2019, committed to Duquesne University to compete in cross country and track and field.

In cross country, Litrenta was the 2019 WPIAL runner-up, finishing in 17:04. He holds the school record at New Castle’s home course of 16:16. He also was named to the Elite 8 cross country team as the top boys runner in the county.

Litrenta placed second overall in 16:58 in the MAC championship meet.

Litrenta finished 28th in 16:56.4 at the state championship meet.

New Castle’s boys team captured the WPIAL section championship for a fourth consecutive season.

Litrenta will run cross country as well as track and field at Duquesne.

DYLAN LLOYD

MOHAWK

Lloyd, a senior, played soccer and football at Mohawk.

Lloyd helped lead the Warriors to just their second WPIAL playoff appearance in program history. He paced the Warriors with 20 goals on the season, including a tally in Mohawk’s 4-2 loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in the opening round of the district playoffs.

Lloyd was named to the Section 1 all-star team and was the section’s player of the year as well. In addition, Lloyd was named to the Western Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association all-WPIAL squad. 

The Warriors finished the year at 7-10-1. 

Lloyd received honorable mention status on the all-MAC football squad as a placekicker. He made four field goals and 11 extra points to finish with 23 total points. All four of his made field goals came from over 33 yards, with 38 yards being his longest.

Mohawk finished 2-8 on the gridiron.

Lloyd will attend Temple University for academics.

CONNER McBETH

NESHANNOCK

McBeth is a junior swimmer from Neshannock.

Early in the season, McBeth excelled at the Midwestern Athletic Conference High School Swimming Championships.

McBeth won the title in the 100 freestyle (46.40) for the second straight season and the championship in the 50 freestyle (21.36) for the third consecutive year.

In addition to McBeth’s first-place finishes, he set meet records in both events.

McBeth captured his third consecutive WPIAL championship by winning the 50 freestyle in the Class 2A event.

As an independent swimmer, McBeth swam a 20.80, his personal best in the 50 freestyle. He missed out on the WPIAL meet record by one one-hundredth of a second. 

In addition, McBeth took second place in the 100 freestyle at the WPIAL Class 2A Swimming Championships. He finished with a time of 45.08.

The coronavirus pandemic eliminated McBeth’s shot at winning a medal in the pool at the PIAA championship meet. He was seeded No. 1 in the 50 freestyle event. However, McBeth recently was awarded a gold medal for the 50 freestyle event and a silver medal for the 100 freestyle event.

JUNIOR MCCONAHY

WILMINGTON

McConahy starred in football and basketball at Wilmington.

McConahy ranked second in Lawrence County in receiving with 37 catches for 703 yards. He scored nine touchdowns as well.

A 6-4, 200-pound tight end/defensive lineman, McConahy was named the District 10, Region 4-2A Player of the Year. He earned first-team all-region status, listed on the all-star team at wide receiver, as well as a first-team defensive lineman.

McConahy earned second-team all-state honors by the Pennsylvania Football News. He also received mention on the Pennsylvania Football Writers all-state squad.

In basketball, McConahy averaged five points a game.

McConahy will continue his academic and football career at California University of Pennsylvania.

MITCH MILES

LAUREL

Miles, a junior, participated in football and wrestling at Laurel.

A 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive/defensive tackle, Miles was named to the first-team all-state squad as recognized by the Pennsylvania Football News as well as the Pennsylvania Football Writers.

Miles earned first-team honors on the offensive and defensive lines on the Big Seven Conference all-conference team. He repeated as the conference’s lineman of the year.

The Spartans finished the season at 7-3 and missed the playoffs despite winning three of their last four games.

Miles finished runner-up in the 285-pound weight class for Laurel in the PIAA Class 2A Southwest Regional wrestling tournament, which qualified him for the state championship meet.

Miles finished one match short of the medal round at the PIAA meet. He dropped his first match at the state tournament before navigating his way through the consolation bracket, capturing two wins. Miles was eliminated in his third consolation contest.

Miles won his first WPIAL championship, pinning Burgettstown’s Riley Kemper in 3:59 for the Class 2A title.

Miles capped the season with a 38-3 mark.

PRESTON TURK

NESHANNOCK

Turk, a senior, played golf and basketball at Neshannock.

Turk tied for team-high honors in golf with Sam Ball, with each firing an 18-hole 83 as the Lancers took third out of six teams in the WPIAL Team Finals at Cedarbrook Golf Course in Belle Vernon. Neshannock carded a team score of 432. 

Turk finished in a three-way tie for fourth place at the Tri-County event, firing an 18-hole 84. He helped lead the Lancers to the tournament title, edging Riverside by five strokes.

Neshannock captured the WPIAL Section 5-2A title with a 12-0 record.

In basketball, Turk tallied 13.5 points a game. He drained 47 3-pointers.

The Lancers posted a 16-9 record. They lost in the WPIAL quarterfinals and in the first round of the state playoffs.

Turk will continue his basketball career at Allegheny College.

AUSTIN WALLEY

ELLWOOD CITY LINCOLN

Walley, a senior, competed in wrestling at Ellwood City Lincoln.

Walley captured the PIAA Class 2A championship with a 6-5 win over Montoursville’s Dylan Bennett in the 182-weight pound class. It marked the first gold medal in Ellwood City’s program history.

The grapplers were tied at 4 entering the third period. Walley, though, scored a two-point reversal to take the lead for good.

A Bucknell recruit, Walley finished the season at 45-1. His lone loss came at the Powerade Tournament in December.

Walley reached the championship round with a 5-3 win over Penns Valley’s Andrew Sharer in the semifinals. 

In addition, Walley won the WPIAL championship, the lone district title of his high school career.

MICHAEL WELLS

NEW CASTLE

Wells, a sophomore, played football and basketball at New Castle.

A 6-3, 200-pounder, Wells was listed as a quarterback/defensive back. Wells was third in the county in passing, completing 83 of 180 aerials for 1,478 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 243 yards on 55 attempts, while scoring five touchdowns with a two-point conversion.

Wells earned second-team status on the all-Northwest Eight Conference team at quarterback.

The Red Hurricane finished 7-4 overall, losing in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs to Belle Vernon.

Wells paced the county basketball players in scoring with 20.3 points a game in 26 matchups. He also buried 53 3-pointers, to go along with 7.3 rebounds per game, 56 assists and 32 steals.

Wells was named to the WPIAL Section 2-4A first team. 

New Castle posted a 17-9 record, falling in the WPIAL semifinals and the opening round of the state playoffs.

rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com

Sports Writer

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is a sports writer at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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