Southmoreland's Griffiths earns opening-round win at state tourney
HERSHEY — Southmoreland junior Tyler Griffiths isn't on the school's track team, but he did clear a major hurdle Thursday during the opening day of the PIAA Class AA wrestling championships.
He finally won a first-round match at Giant Center.
Griffiths (37-2) used a takedown in the first 10 seconds of his bout and breezed to a 3-0 victory against Benton junior Colton Babcock at 132 pounds. He dominated Babcock from the top position, not allowing him to escape for nearly four minutes.
“I figured I was going win this match,” Griffiths said. “He wasn't getting out on me. The past two years I lost in this round, so that was on my mind. I didn't want to drop into the consolation round.”
Griffiths placed eighth as a freshman in 2015 and didn't place last season. He'll face Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt junior Bodee Tolbert (36-14) in the quarterfinals at 9 a.m. Friday. Tolbert won two matches, including a 2-1 upset of Reynolds junior Hunter Michaels.
Griffiths' third point of the match came late when Babcock was called for unsportsmanlike for throwing multiple hard cross faces to Griffiths' head.
“It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win here,” Southmoreland coach Steve Santia said. “It depends what kid comes to wrestle. Tyler just needs to continue to wrestle tough. If he does, good things can happen.”
Griffiths was one of five Westmoreland County wrestlers to advance to the quarterfinals. Joining Griffiths are Ligonier Valley juniors Alex Caldwell and Robby Patrick, Derry sophomore Dom DeLuca and Burrell senior Anthony Marra.
Caldwell (30-10) used two 8-4 victories to get to the quarterfinals at 138. He defeated Saucon Valley junior Angelo Mahaffey in the preliminary round and then toppled Valley View senior Brett Uhrin, the Northeast champion, in the first round.
He'll face Slippery Rock junior Michael Doerflinger (24-5).
“I don't know much about him, and that's OK,” Caldwell said. “I like wrestling different people.
“I'm one that lacks confidence, and getting these two wins will help me. Everyone is good up here; those who win are strong mentally.”
Patrick (36-1) scored 15 consecutive points after allowing a two-point reversal to Kane sophomore Aiden Huilings in a 17-2 technical fall win at 152. Patrick, known for his tilt, easily turned Huilings to his back for 11 points in the second period.
“A win is a win, and I move on,” said Patrick, who was a surprising two-match loser in 2016. “I've been waiting all year to get back here. Now I'm focused on Friday. It's a big day.”
Patrick was so focused on his match he didn't realize his teammate had won.
“That's great for Alex,” Patrick said. “I just focus on myself and nothing else when I'm preparing for my match.”
Patrick will face Northwestern Lehigh junior Caleb Clymer (40-4) in the quarterfinals. The Class AA semifinals are at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
DeLuca and Marra picked up wins at 182.
DeLuca won a physical, 3-1 decision against Susquehanna Township senior Devin Evans. DeLuca (34-7) received a bloody nose in the battle and was constantly being told by his coach, Mike Weinell, to stay calm when Evans elbowed him and poked his eye.
“This place is crazy being here for the first time,” DeLuca said. “I was a little nervous before the match.”
DeLuca received a penalty point (locked hands) and an escape in the second period. He received another penalty point when he was poked in the eye in the third period.
He'll face Troy senior Zach Zimmerman (31-3) in the quarterfinals.
Marra (30-9) breezed to a 10-2 victory against Palmerton senior Jared Mooney. He'll face Saegertown junior Cody Mulligan (43-4) in the quarters.
Blairsville senior Jeremy Moore (35-4) was a 9-6 winner over Greenville sophomore Jacob McMaster at 195.