Southmoreland junior avenges WPIAL finals loss to claim Class AA regional title
JOHNSTOWN — During the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional wrestling championship's Parade of Champions Saturday evening, three WPIAL champs — Jefferson-Morgan's John Demaske, South Park's Jake Wentzel and Burrell's Al Beattie — stood among the 14 wrestlers lined up shoulder to shoulder on one side of the center mat inside Johnstown's Cambria County War Memorial.
On the other side of the mat, directly across from those three, were the respective WPIAL silver medalists — Valley's Pat Dewitt, Jefferson-Morgan's Jason Miller and Southmoreland's Jake Beistel.
Only Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt, the WPIAL 113-pound champ, and Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths, the 113 runner-up, broke the pattern.
That turned out to be a prophetic coincidence.
In four regional title bouts that pitted WPIAL finalists against one another for a second time in eight days, only Griffiths reversed the outcome, as he defeated McDermitt, 7-1, to avenge a 6-0 loss.
“I see him every year, about five times,” said Griffiths, who also lost to McDermitt in the WPIAL finals and then won a rematch in the regional tournament's third-place bout last year. “I think I just wrestled harder tonight. The last time, I kind of gave up takedowns I could've had, or I let him dictate what would happen.”
Demaske (126 pounds), Wentzel (138) and Beattie (285) all claimed Southwest titles, while Dewitt, Miller and Beistel placed second. Demaske won 4-2; Wentzel pinned; and Beattie won 3-0.
In the WPIAL finals last week, Demaske topped then-unbeaten Dewitt, 6-0.
“I pretty much controlled him last week, but I tore a muscle in my left shoulder or bicep or something, so I took off practice and lifting this whole week,” said Demaske, who improved to 40-0. “So I knew I'd be a little weaker, and I knew it'd be a closer match. I just wanted to do whatever I could to win.”
Wentzel also pinned Miller a week ago.
“We're probably around even on our feet, but top and bottom, that's where I'm best and where I feel most comfortable,” said Wentzel (36-1). “So on top, if the cradle is there, I'm going to take it.”
Beattie defeated Beistel, 3-1, in overtime.
“I knew the way he was going to wrestle me, so I wanted to capitalize where I could,” said Beattie (40-5), a second-time regional champ. “I don't get tired of wrestling anyone. … He's good, so I know I'll have to see him a couple times.”
Other finals showdowns served as rematches of earlier WPIAL postseason bouts.
South Fayette's Mike Carr (132) beat Burrell's J.R. Andrejcik, 5-0, one week after winning 3-1 in overtime in the WPIAL semifinals.
“After I wrestled him the first two times, I noticed he likes to go down to his knees, so I worked a lot on double-overs and head shots,” said Carr (40-0). “He changed his style up earlier, so this was my turn to change my style. Or we can just say that I added to my style.”
Also, Kittanning's Jason Nolf (145) became a four-time regional champ win a pinfall win over Burrell's Corey Falleroni, who also ended up on his back against Nolf in the Section 3-AA championships.
“It's pretty cool, because we both train at the Mat Factory (in Lower Burrell) together,” said Nolf (40-0), just the fifth wrestler in the tournament's 28-year history to claim four regional titles. “I don't think it's much different than wrestling anybody else. I treat it the same way. I talk to him, but not before the match.”
The WPIAL's only other unbeaten wrestler, Avella's Jake Temple (39-0), stayed perfect and defended his regional crown with a 3-2 ultimate-tiebreaker win over West Branch's Reynold Maines, who entered the finals with a 35-0 record.
Valley senior Terrell Fields (182) exacted revenge against one of his greatest foes, as he defeated Blairsville's Scott Thompson, 7-3, to claim his first regional title. Thompson, the defending champion, edged Fields, 9-4, in the semifinals last season, while Fields pinned Thompson in the quarterfinals in 2012.
Thompson also beat Fields in the Southmoreland Holiday Classic and the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament two seasons ago.
“Every time I beat kids that have beat me more than once, it's just a mindset change,” Fields said. “I flipped a switch, and I said he's not going to take what I've worked for so hard from me.”
The top five finishers in each weight class qualified for the PIAA tournament, which begins Thursday in Hershey. Fields' brother, Marcus Davenport (195), took third, Kittanning's Jacob Robb (220) also placed third, and Highlands' Nolan Wise (152) came fifth.
Burrell, led by champions Beattie and Steve Edwards (152), took first in the team standings to add to its season achievements, which already included a WPIAL team title and a third-place finish in the PIAA team tournament.
“I was talking to my coaches earlier, and I asked what the team record was for kids in the finals, and he told me four,” Edwards said. “I asked how many champs, and he said all four. So (two champs) was a bit of a bummer, but I mean, I'm proud and real happy with the way everyone wrestled, even the guys that didn't make it. I wouldn't say I'm surprised. When you see guys work this hard, you just want everything good to happen for them.”
One season ago, only a regional title eluded Derry's Micky Phillippi's grasp, as he won a WPIAL title, took third in the Southwest, and claimed gold in Hershey.
Phillippi (120) made sure to find the top of the podium at Johnstown this season.
“(Last year), I was happy I was moving on and going to states,” Phillippi said. “I let (the loss) go after it happened. But I'm way happier this year than last year.”
Derry classmate Stone Kepple will join Phillippi in Hershey after taking fourth at 126.
“He's an awesome kid and an awesome drilling partner,” Phillippi said. “I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up on the podium at states, because he's a tough kid.”
Also Hershey-bound are Yough's Tom Sever (220), who took fifth, and Jeannette's Gio Vonne Sanders (138), who placed fifth.
“It feels great to be a leader and start this back up (for Jeannette),” said Sanders, a freshman. “At the beginning of the year, it was my goal to get to states. I knew it'd take hard work. And I'm going there now. I'm rewriting my goals now.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.