By Frank Foreman
A total of 11 local wrestlers made the most of their time at Sharon High School this weekend during the Class AA Northwest Regional Tournament at Sharon High School, which wrapped up on Saturday.
Each of those 11 earned one of the top three spots in their respective weight brackets, punching their tickets to Hershey, where they will compete in the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships, which begin Thursday at The Giant Center.
Reynolds and Brookville ran away with the top two team spots in this weekend’s tournament, with Reynolds taking first place with 147 points and Brookville not far behind with 138 points. Fort LeBoeuf (79) followed in third, Saegertown (71) placed fourth and Redbank Valley (59) was fifth.
Saegertown strikes gold
Not one, but two Panthers found their way to the top of the medal stand Saturday, as juniors Tyler Vath and Dylan Reynolds won championships at 132 pounds and 182 pounds, respectively.
Vath took on Crawford County rival Kyle Lukowich of Conneaut in the 132-pound championship bout, whom he beat 3-0 in the District 10 final one week ago.
The championship rematch played out much like the first, as Vath scored an early takedown and rode out his competition the rest of the way for a 2-0 decision. Vath’s approach was a calculated one, scoring early and doing everything in his power to maintain the small lead.
“I didn’t want to let him score,” Vath said coming off the podium. “I really wanted this one. I was really excited when I won this one. Every tournament I get better and I’m really excited.”
It was Vath’s third straight region championship. Now he’s aiming for his third consecutive state medal.
“I want to go down there, have fun, wrestle to the best of my abilities and place,” he said. “I want a medal.”
Reynolds’ trip to Hershey was booked in a much different fashion, as an injury default from Cranberry’s Zachary Bruce put an end to a tightly contested bout with 1:28 left in the match.
With the scored tied 1-1 in the third period, Reynolds brought Bruce down to make it 3-1. And on the score came a scream of pain from the Cranberry grappler. Bruce had injured his lower left leg and was unable to continue, handing Reynolds the victory.
It was Reynolds’ second straight region title. He’ll be looking for his second medal at states as well.
Also hitching a ride out east for the Panthers is sophomore Nick Monico, who earned his second-straight trip to Hershey.
After losing to the eventual champion Brock Zacherl of Brookville in the 138-pound semifinals, Monico rebounded by pinning Smethport’s Adam Shunk and scoring a 5-1 overtime victory over Seneca’s Adam Fish in the consolation finals to earn third place.
Breese does it again
Perhaps the only surprise in Lakeview senior Sam Breese’s title run came in the semifinals was when he had to wrestle an entire match, something that the defending state champion at heavyweight hasn’t done much of this year.
Breese’s full-pull was in the semifinals, where he defeated Fort LeBoeuf’s Nate Conti 5-2.
“My semifinal match with Conti was really good,” Breese said. “It helps me with my mind and my body in those close matches. But it was a good way to cap it off with the pin (in the finals).”
That put Breese in the finals against Redbank Valley’s Ben Carillo. And Breese stamped an exclamation point on another standout tournament by decking Carillo in 1:42.
“It feels good to get the pin in front of the Sharon crowd for the last time,” Breese said. “It’s kind of like a second home here for three weeks of the year. You want to peak at states, and I don’t feel like I’ve peaked yet. Hopefully that comes this week.”
Conneaut cashes in
Somebody forgot to tell first-year wrestler Connor Overman that success shouldn’t come this quickly.
Overman, competing at 220 pounds, put together a fantastic tournament, placing second after dropping his championship bout to Reynolds’ Cole Rickert by an 8-5 decision.
But while the finals loss was a slight setback, Overman couldn’t be happier to be headed to Hershey in his first full year on the mat.
And who could blame him?
“It’s pretty big,” Overman said. “People said it would be good to place at sections, but that I would get eliminated at districts. Then they said that I did well at districts, but regionals would be too tough. People said I couldn’t do it, and I showed them I could. It’s a great feeling when people say you can’t do something, and you step up to the challenge and do it.”
Needless to say, Overman doesn’t have to look far for motivation. His attitude and wrestling style coincide with one another, and the combination has proven to be a useful duo this year.
“Half of my motivation comes from the doubters, and the other half is my will to win,” Overman said. “I love to win. Everyone does.”
Fellow Eagles joining Overman on the trip to Hershey will be 132-pounder Kyle Lukowich and 145-pounder Taylor Ellis.
Lukowich, who was a region runner-up last year, made it to the championship finals on Saturday, but fell in another tough battle with Saegertown’s Tyler Vath, losing 2-0.
Ellis’ journey was a unique one, as the senior has been dealing with illness all week. And making matters worse, he lost his opening bout on Friday.
But Ellis battled back and won his next three matches, the final of which ended with a 7-4 decision over Saegertown’s Matt Humes to earn third place.
“It’s hard for a high school kid to take in the one match at a time advice, but he trusted us,” Conneaut head coach Carmen Russo said. “It’s very rare to find a guy who loses his first match and come back and take third. That is very hard to do at this level of competition.”
Boozer takes second for Cards
Cochranton senior Robert Boozer made things look rather easy at 152 pounds leading up to Saturday’s championship final. He had a major decision in Friday’s quarterfinals, and then pinned a tough wrestler in Fort LeBoeuf’s Brad Malinowski in last night’s semis.
In the final, however, the bout belonged to Brookville’s Brodie Zacherl, who scored an 11-2 major decision over the Cardinals grappler.
It was Boozer’s second straight runner-up finish at regionals. Now he’ll aim for his first PIAA medal.
Spa’s Stafford heads to states
Cambridge Springs 195-pounder Zach Stafford had a strong tournament, earning a spot in the final with a 6-5 decision over District 10 champion Garrett Reinwald of Fort LeBoeuf n the semifinals.
However couldn’t quite finish the evening off with a win, as the Blue Devil lost a close championship bout to Corry’s Ryan Morris 6-4.
“I’m really proud of (Stafford),” said Cambridge Springs coach Jim Beach. “The semifinal was a match with Reinwald who he lost to in overtime at districts. But Zach took it to the kid, he got in leg attacks, scored points and really impressed me, especially for a sophomore.”
Now the 10th-grader Stafford will get an early look at Hershey, giving him plenty to grow on during the next two years.
Pair of Messai’s headed to states
While both Faris Messai (113 pounds) and Mohamed Messai (182) will make the trip to Hershey, neither will do so as champions, as both missed out on their respective first-place crowns.
Faris Messai came the closest, making it to the 113-pound final to take on Brookville’s Taylor Ortz, who entered the bout on quite a hot streak. Ortz had pinned his last 19 opponents entering the finals, and that streak continued as he pinned Faris Messai in 2:24, leaving the Jamestown sophomore with a second place finish.
Mohamed Messai ended his tournament with greatly satisfying victory. At the district 10 tournament, Mohamed Messai and Reynolds’ Austin Moffett met in the semifinals. Moffett scored a late takedown in overtime to send Messai into the consolation bracket.
For their rematch in yesterday’s third-place match, Messai dominated Moffett, posting a 12-1 major decision to finish third and advance to states.
o o o
Lee leads 15 D-10 grapplers to Class AAA states
ALTOONA — Ehrin Lee entered the 2013-14 season on a mission. He now stands just four wins from the golden ring.
Lee finished off a stellar Northwest Regional Class AAA Tournament by grinding out a 3-2 win over Central Mountain’s Chad Reese in the 160-pound title match on Saturday. Lee was solid all the way through the bracket, starting with his 8-1 decision over Mifflin County’s Brandon WIlson in Friday’s quarterfinals. Earlier Saturday, Lee rolled to a 17-1 technical fall over Saint Marys’ William Gabor in 4:52.
Lee was the only Rocket to advance to Hershey, but District 10 as a whole will send 15 grapplers to the state tournament.
Leading the way for the area was General McLane, which saw five of its matmen advance. Joe Wheeling and Deane Twitchell each won region titles to pace the Lancers.
Wheeling collected his title wit ha 5-3 decision over Hollidaysburg’s Damian Huff. Twitchell needed overtime, but it did not stop him from grabbing a 3-1 decision over Central Mountain’s Demetri Probst.
Chris Laird was second at 195 pounds after running into a buzzsaw in DuBois’ Tom Sleigh. Sleigh won all three of his matches by techincal fall, including a 15-0, 3:43 showing against Laird in the final. Ian Mallory also took second for the Lancers. Mallory dropped a 9-4 decision to Shikellamy’s Dwayne Pepper in the 220-pound final.
Ethan Laird was the fifth McLane grappler to advance. The 160-pounder was third thanks to a 10-4 decision over Jersey Shore’s Seth Young.
Meadville came up short on its two bids for a state berth. Aaron Ehrgott wrestled for third but fell to Philipsburg-Osceola’s Chris Thompson by 11-4 decision. Kyle Luben also went for third at 126 pounds but dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Clearfield’s Noah Cline.
The other D-10 grapplers to punch their ticket to states are:
McDowell: Charlie Lennox (1st, 106); Coleman Cousins (2nd, 170); Tyree Spearman (3rd, 182); Scot Augustine (1st, 285).
Strong Vincent: Carmine Ciotti (2nd, 106); John Ciotti (3rd, 132).
Cathedral Prep: Jame Gromacki (1st, 120).
Warren: D.J. Fehlman (2nd, 126).
Oil City: Trent Zdarko (1st, 170).