By Drew Karpen
It seemed liked déjà vu at this weekend’s PIAA Class AA Northwest Region tournament at Sharon High School for Saegertown. Last week, the Panthers came away with three District 10 champions with Devin Brown, Tyler Vath and Dylan Reynolds. Fast-forwarding to Saturday, Brown, Vath and Reynolds were again kings of their weight classes — this time picking up region titles.
“The kids are wrestling at a level where every time they step on the mat they are getting better,” Saegertown head coach Jim Mulligan said. “They are happy but they expect to win. These kids are wrestling for their fans, families, the school and the sport of wrestling.”
In all, the Panthers will be sending five wrestlers to Hershey next week for the PIAA championships with Nick Monico and Matt Humes each advancing by winning the consolation finals match in their respective weight class.
Brown was the first Panther to claim the Northwest Region crown, doing so in impressive fashion. After a slow start to the match, Brown cruised through the second and third periods, picking up a 9-1 major decision over Taylor Ortz of Brookville at 106 pounds.
“It’s a really good thing that it happened but I just got one more step to go,” Brown said. “I’m almost at the top of the mountain. That will feel good. I am just glad that all my hard work is paying off.”
The region title is the first one for Brown, who is a transfer from Ohio.
Vath followed Brown’s lead two weight classes later. At 120, the sophomore won his second consecutive regional title with an identical 9-1 major decision over Trent Neely of Smethport.
“It feels awesome,” Vath said. “That was one of my goals this year to get the three wins in a row with Sections, Districts and Regions.”
Still knotted at 0-0, Vath picked up a critical two points and the momentum with a reversal right before the buzzer sounded at the end of the first period.
The rest was history from there as he out-scored his opponent 7-1 the remaining two periods.
Reynolds completed the three-peat for the Panthers with a win at 182 pounds. Reynolds defeated Jamar Henry in the finals for the second week in a row with a 7-2 decision.
“It’s just a great feeling to win all sections, districts and regions,” Reynolds said. “We are all just a family and awesome group of friends. It is indescribable.”
Monico and Humes were the final two Panthers to secure their spot in Hershey next week. Monico recorded a 6-0 shutout of Ridgeway’s Brett Himes in the consolation final at 126 pounds.
Humes path to Hershey was not as quiet. Humes battled with Cody Bova of Coudersport in the consolation final at 138 pounds. Both grapplers struggled to score a point until Bova notched an escape point late in the second.
After starting the third period on the mat, Humes looked like he was out of gas but found the strength for a two-point reversal with a little less than a minute left. Humes was able to hold on for the 2-1 victory.
“It was big,” Mulligan said about Monico’s and Humes’ match. “Nick destroyed his opponent in the consolation finals and Matt had a very interesting match. He did a good job to hang on to the win.”
Bingbong Elizon was unable to continue his journey to Hershey, losing a 5-1 decision to Cody Buchanan of Sharon in the consolation quarterfinals.
The team finished in second place in the standings with 97 points. Reynolds won the Region title with 118 points.
The five wrestlers advancing to Hershey is also the most in school history for Saegertown.
“This is the first time in school history we have three region champs and this is the most kids we have ever sent to states,” Mulligan said.
Breese, Vargo, win region gold
The cliché saving the best for last may be appropriate in the setting of this weekend’s tournament. With every spot but one locked up for next week, Lakeview’s Sam Breese and Union City’s Jeff Burger was set up for a good matchup…on paper.
Breese, who defeated District 10 champion Forrest Christmann in the semifinals, avenged his semifinal loss to Burger last week by pinning the heavyweight in 1:49.
“I’m pumped,” Breese said. Words can’t describe how I feel right now.”
Breese will be making his second straight trip to Hershey.
“I just worked so hard for this and it feels good to have it pay off,” Breese said. “I feel blessed.”
Even with Burger’s shocking outcome, the Bears were still able to celebrate a champion. Once again Tim Vargo proved that he belongs among the elite at 170 pounds. After winning the District 10 championship, Vargo followed that performance up with earning the Northwest Region title on Saturday. Vargo seemingly looked to be hurt at the end of the first period but wrestle through the pain and ended up pinning Chris Matthews of Franklin at 4:25.
“I was pretty happy with how I wrestled,” Vargo said. “It was nice to get the win and keep moving on and I just need to stay focused.”
Cyphert gets revenge
Last week’s final against Evan Daley of Fort LeBoeuf didn’t go as planned for Cam Cyphert. Fortunately for him, he had the chance to redeem himself in the region final at 220 pounds on Saturday.
“It feels really good,” Cyphert said. “I beat him last year at Districts but he has beaten me four times in a row. It just feels good to get the win.”
As he did last week, Cyphert got out to a quick start, taking a 4-1 lead into the second period. With the big lead, Cyphert was able to take it easy and make sure he didn’t do anything to cost himself another lead.
“I stalled a little bit in the third period but I didn’t want to do anything dumb like I did last week to cost me,” Cyphert said.
For the second week in the row, Robert Boozer made it to the championship final. And for the second week in a row, he came up just shy of the gold.
After two periods, Boozer and Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer were tied 2-2. At the beginning of the third, Stoyer scored an escape point and maintained the one point lead for a 3-2 decision. Even with the loss, Boozer already qualified for the PIAA championships.
“Working hard all season and seeing it pay off is a real good feeling, “Boozer said. “I just need to continue wrestling my own match and try to stay out of the ties and practice hard all week. Hopefully I can do good next week.”
The Cardinals were four seconds away from having a third wrestler in the PIAA championships. With 20 seconds remaining in the match, Austin Andrews recorded a two-point reversal to give himself a 3-2 lead. Everything was looking up for Andrews as he was 20 seconds away from punching his ticket to Hershey. Andrews recorded a two-point reversal for a 3-2 lead but than something drastically went wrong. As the seconds were ticking off the scoreboard, Alexander Gular of Port Allegany caught Andrews off guard, recording a reversal of his own with four seconds remaining and a 4-3 win.
Three more Cardinal wrestlers saw their season come to an end in the second day of the region tournament.
At 126, Jared Morrison made it to the consolation semifinals before being ousted. Morrison was successful in his first match of the day, defeating Mitch Blose of Redbank Valley by a 7-0 decision. Morrison’s run ended in the next round to the hands of Himes. Himes was a 12-11 winner over Morrison.
Like Morrison, Caleb Peterson was also successful in making it to the consolation semifinals. In his first bout of the day, Peterson pinned Blake Horne of Greenville in 4:43. In the consolation semifinals, Peterson fell to Fort LeBoeuf’s Taylor Harrington.
Ryan Northcott was the third Cardinal to come up one win shy of competing for a spot at states. Northcott, a District 10 runner-up at 160 pounds last week, got pinned in 42 seconds in the consolation semifinals by eventual consolation finals winner, Cole Shirey of Redbank Valley.
Cochranton finished the region in sixth place with 62 points.
Lukowich makes history
It wasn’t the outcome he wanted, but nonetheless Conneaut’s Kyle Lukowich became the first wrestler in program history to advance to the PIAA championships with a second place finish at 126 pounds.
“It feels pretty good,” Lukowich said. “You train all year for this and just prepare for next week and let it all come out.”
Lukowich was matched up against last week’s District 10 champion Jarray Norris. After a scoreless first period, Lukowich was able to take a 1-0 advantage on an escape point. The lead would be short-lived when Norris rattled off six unanswered points for the 6-1 decision.
Taylor Ellis was the other Eagle in competition on Saturday, advancing to the consolation semifinals. Ellis defeated Zac McKnight of Ridgeway in the consolation quarterfinal by a pin at 4:43. Ellis’ outcome was reversed in the next round as he was the one getting pinned. Ty Haines of Redbank Valley pinned Ellis in 50 seconds.
Muskies, Tigers eliminated
With three combined wrestlers competing in Saturday’s region matches, the Jamestown Muskies and Maplewood Tigers were holding on by a thread.
For Jamestown, Faris Messai and Seth Thurber were the Muskies final hope.
Thurber was eliminated in his first match of the day, getting pinned at 1:35 over Seneca’s Chris Hibbler in the consolation quarterfinals at 138 pounds.
Messai advanced to the consolation semifinals with a pin over Port Allegany’s Casey Vollmer at 4:43. Messai was then eliminated by eventual consolation finals winner at 106 pounds Seth Hogue of Reynolds.
Maplewood entered the region with three wrestlers but found themselves down to only Zak Dennis entering Saturday.
Dennis was one of many local grapplers to reach the consolation semifinals but fell short. Dennis lost a 10-6 decision to Dalton Zimmerman of Brookville — who advanced to Hershey next week via a 3-0 decision over Luke Walter of Grove City in the consolation final.
Other notable winners
At 152, Reynolds’ Austin Matthews accomplished something few wrestlers have a chance to do — win four region titles. With his 15-6 major decision over Kyle Bova of Coudersport, Matthews accomplished his goal.
Redbank Valley’s Willis Gruver won the region title with a 4-2 decision over Cody Blankenship of Kane in the 113 pound final.
At 132, Karl Lightner improved his record to 31-0 with a 17-5 major decision over Seneca’s Adam Fish.
Brookville’s Brock Zacherl won a nail-biting 10-8 decision in overtime to capture the region title at 138 pounds over Sharon’s Michael Bonner.
At 160, Evan Delong of Kane won a 5-3 decision over Taylor Fox of Fort LeBoeuf and at 195 Ryan Morris of Corry was an 8-2 winner over Jake Johnson of Eisenhower.