[Although the GPQB founders are no longer posting regular updates, we are thrilled to publish contributions from members of the Greater Pennsylvania Quiz Bowl community. In this post, Lehigh University team member and Kiski Area HS graduate Eddie Fuhrer provides this overview of quizbowl in Western Pennsylvania this year. Please feel free to email us at email@example.com if you would like to have your article or post potentially featured here on GPQB.]
As February winds down, the Western Pennsylvania quizbowl circuit is officially 60% done with the tournaments currently planned for the season. The most-recent event, CMU’s Carnegie Quiz IV, took place on February 12th and saw 16 teams competing in the tournament formerly known as the Tartan Invitational.
There’s still much more time for things to change and the gaps between teams in the circuit are still very close. I wanted to take a look at 7 of the most impressive teams so far and also provide an approximate ranking of the top 14 players in the Western Pennsylvania circuit this year
One thing to note before we get to the rankings: there are still some Western PA teams who have some serious talent, but still have yet to play a tournament this season. Penn-Trafford, who won two of the last three Westmoreland County IU championships, are set to play their first in-person pyramidal tournament since 2017 at Allderdice this April. Also slated to play for the first time in a while are the winners of the 2020 Allegheny County IU tournament, Pine-Richland, who will play for the first time since the GPQB December Invitational last season. We welcome these teams back to the PA circuit and hope that others, including more teams from far Southwest and Northwest PA, come to more quizbowl events.
And now, the top 7 teams in Western PA so far in the 2021-2022 season:
1. Morgantown (WV) (29-2 at Pittsburgh tournaments, 25-1 vs circuit opponents)
Ever since their top bracket performance at the 2019 installation of SAGACITY, the honorary Pennsylvanians of Morgantown have been primed to overtake some of the circuit’s longtime powerhouses and contend for tournament wins. This is exactly what they have done this year, as the duo of their senior captain Celina Liang and standout sophomore Steven Tian have been an incredible duo for a team that seems poised for a great run at nationals and have looked nearly-unbeatable at local tournaments so far this year. Also keep an eye on junior Carter Herron who has been improving throughout the course of the season. Morgantown has won two tournaments so far and show no signs of slowing down at future events this season.
2. Pittsburgh Central Catholic (24-7 at Pittsburgh tournaments, 24-4 vs circuit opponents)
After the departure of generalist Jude Sweeney, Joe Stern has emerged as the outright leader of scoring for a Pittsburgh Central Catholic team that for the past few years was always a step behind other Pittsburgh schools. This year, PCC is no longer the hunted and is now the team to beat when it comes to the schools from the city, with Joe averaging 24 powers per tournament so far this year. This Central Catholic team is one of the best in years and their bonus numbers are also backing that up, keeping up with very balanced teams inside and outside of the Western PA circuit. Also look out for returning sophomore James Sweeney developing throughout the season.
3. Allderdice (19-4 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 17-4 vs circuit opponents)
When I was talking to an alumnus of the program before the season, I was assured that Allderdice’s team would be back near the top of the circuit this year; at the time, to be honest, I did not believe him. This alum’s faith has paid off so far this season as ‘Dice has rebuilt their lineup very quickly. Allderdice is the only team to have beaten both Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Morgantown this year and they have done it with a wide variety of scoring threats. One of the best, if not the best history player in the circuit, Naday Gilboa has teamed up with long-time teammate Teadora Gildengers to provide the best one-two punch this side of the Allegheny. Raffa Rothstein, who has been putting up absurd numbers on the B team, is one of the top players in Western Pennsylvania as well. Expect the Dragons to continue to be near the top of the standings as the season continues to close out.
4. Winchester Thurston (17-10 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 17-6 vs circuit opponents)
After coming out hibernation through the COVID-affected 2020-21 season, Winchester Thurston is back where everyone expected them to be. One of the winningest programs in the state of Pennsylvania, Winchester Thurston still holds up well against the best teams in the circuit and their close win over Allderdice at Carnegie Quiz proved that the two longtime foes are still very interchangeable. Club president and veteran player Brian Salipante leads a balanced cohort of scorers who can hang with the best teams in the circuit on any given Saturday. Look for Winchester Thurston to continue rebounding and eventually push toward the top of the standings once again.
5. South Side Beaver (19-14 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 17-9 vs circuit opponents)
For such a long time, the big 3 in Western Pennsylvania proper have been generally seen as Winchester Thurston, Allderdice, and Central Catholic. If that was the case before, South Side Beaver might be on their way to making it the big 4. They are an incredibly well-coached team as Coach McCoy and the rest of the school in Hookstown are really invested in quizbowl. Although the results took a while to catch up, now their investment is paying dividends and they are right on the level of Winchester Thurston and potentially even Allderdice. Jacob Paciello is arguably the one of the best, if not the best JV players in the state, with deep humanities knowledge that allows for the team to pick up huge wins including the one they got against Winchester Thurston back at Mellon Bowl.
6. Bishop Canevin (15-16 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 12-15 vs circuit opponents)
Norwin and Bishop Canevin have split their season series so far, but I gave the nod to Bishop Canevin due to their better performance on bonuses and the standout performance this year from lan Lecker. Before one tournament in 2019, I remember Bishop Canevin’s coach who revived the program saying that she wanted to encourage her players to improve and study; now, Bishop Canevin is slowly but surely rising the ranks as a result of this commitment to the game. The Crusaders have been able to contend with teams like South Side and Norwin throughout the course of the year. Bishop Canevin, like South Side, is a great example of a team that is really elevated by dedicated coaching and even since the team was revived a few years ago continues to go up and up for the future.
7. Norwin (8-15 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 8-14 vs circuit opponents)
Norwin last year, despite playing no tournaments, had the most impressive senior class of any school in Western Pennsylvania and that showed when they played in 2019-20. Despite losing some of the scoring to graduation, they have moved up their former B-teamers and have made the top bracket at both of the two tournaments that they have played so far this year. Junior Brady Johnson, who has been involved in Norwin’s program for years now has been joined by Nicholas Cormas for a scoring duo that has been able to play close games against top teams. They have had to play some very tough competition, with all 14 losses coming from the 6 schools ranked above them, but the future is bright for Norwin after losing their very promising senior class last year.
Other Mentions (not in any order):
Armstrong (7-4 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 7-4 vs circuit opponents)
I had to play many heated games against Armstrong in high school coming from their rival school, and it has always hard to deny the talent the River Hawks have on their team year in and year out even with the smaller sample size. Nolan Heilman, who I have gotten to see many times in league play and finally got to see the stats of at a tournament, has proven his might to Western Pennsylvania as he put up great stats at Carnegie Quiz including a 75 point round against Bishop Canevin. Coach Coil, who is one of the best in the business, is really putting together a team that continues to play good quizbowl up in Kittanning.
Mt. Lebanon (4–7 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 4-7 vs circuit opponents)
After losing Jacob Terkel to the quizbowl team at Gettysburg College and captain Ben Brown, the Mt, Lebanon Blue Devils have had a year where a rising program had to change their lineup almost entirely. They’ve still managed to pick up some solid wins at Carnegie Quiz under the scoring duo of Vishnu Venugopal and Tessa Ternullo, so there is much to build on and be hopeful for in the future.
Huntingdon (6-5 at Pittsburgh Tournaments, 5-5 vs circuit opponents)
The junior Aiden Kelsey has been a key part of a Huntingdon team that has played once so far within the circuit and twice at TQBA tournaments hosted out of Texas. The team has put up some impressive numbers so far and with a starting lineup with only one senior, it is safe to say that they could be pushing for the top 7 by next season.
That is an overview of all of the teams in Western Pennsylvania as the circuit heads into its final two tournaments of the year. To conclude this post, I would like to provide my personal list based on the first three tournaments of ranking the top 14 players in the circuit so far:
1. Joe Stern (Pittsburgh Central Catholic) 2. Celina Liang (Morgantown) 3. Steven Tian (Morgantown) 4. Jacob Paciello (South Side Beaver) 5. Raffa Rothstein (Allderdice) 6. Carter Herron (Morgantown) 7. Brian Salipante (Winchester Thurston) 8. lan Lecker (Bishop Canevin) 9. Nadav Gilboa (Allderdice) 10. Teadora Gildengers (Allderdice) 11. Aidan Kelsey (Huntingdon) 12. Nolan Heilman (Armstrong) 13. Nicholas Blair (Winchester Thurston) 14. Brady Johnson (Norwin)
It will be interesting to see if any of these players are in contention for either state all-star or state JV player of the year conversations at the end of the season as Western PA teams have much competition from Eastern side of the state as well.
Does your school want to get involved in quizbowl as well? You can view upcoming tournament listings for the Pittsburgh region and beyond at both naqt.com and hsquizbowl.org.
-Contributed by Eddie Fuhrer