Penn Hills pair excel in youth wrestling event
Steven Tucibat, 9, had a friend who suggested he might be interested in wrestling.
“Ever since, it's been busy,” said Tucibat's father, Steven Sr.
Tucibat and fellow Penn Hills resident Justin Perkins, 12, recently competed in the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling tournament, held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg.
Tucibat finished fourth in his division, and Perkins brought home a first-place win in the 85-pound division of 11- and 12-year-olds.
“My husband used to wrestle, so when Justin brought home a paper (from school) about it, we got him in,” said Perkins' mother, Ania.
“Even though he was young, he did very well.”
Perkins said he enjoys having the spotlight on him when he wrestles — his father said Justin has always been a little shy — but added that he had to overcome his nervousness.
“I had a lot of confidence, but I was nervous, because you never know how you're going to do,” he said.
After earning a bye in the tournament's first round, Perkins scored 8-0, 2-0, 4-0 and 3-2 victories to take the top spot in his division with a win over Johnsonburg wrestler Tyler Dilley.
Tucibat won his first three matches before falling 14-10 to the eventual champion in his division, Pottsville wrestler Connor Demcher.
Tucibat's father said his son's small size — he competed in the 45-pound division for 8- and 9-year-olds — means it is more difficult to find him suitable wrestling partners.
“We have to go to a bunch of the club (teams) just to get people for him to practice with,” Steven Sr. said.
“If he stays at Penn Hills (only), he's so small that there's no one to practice with.”
To qualify for the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling competitions, youth wrestlers must be a part of their school-district teams, but Ania Perkins said she has driven Justin all the way to Cranberry “just to get him people to wrestle with and build the skills he needs.”
Both parents said their biggest challenge is maintaining weight.
“(Steven) is really disciplined,” Steven Sr. said. “I can eat right in front of him and it doesn't bother him.”
Ania Perkins said she has to discourage family from offering sweets or tempting Justin.
“My sister was eating pancakes, and (Justin) turned them down, but I was like, ‘Don't eat those in front of him!' It's a sport that takes a lot of discipline if you're committed to it,” she said.
Even with her efforts, Justin wasn't able to cut weight and get down into the 80-pound division.
“We couldn't, so we let him go at 85 (pounds), but we were nervous,” Nia said.
But with his first-place win, Perkins improved on his fourth-place finish at the 2012 PJW tournament and is in a good position heading into upcoming dual meets in Virginia and in Michigan.
Tucibat will also be headed to the Michigan dual meet.
No matter the competition, Perkins said he'll be ready.
“Whenever we shake hands (before a match), it all goes away,” he said. “I feel confident, I pray, and I wrestle.”
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.