Shields' triumph leads Star-area Powerade performances
It came down to the last try, but Franklin Regional's run of Powerade success stayed alive.
Sophomore Josh Shields, the last of three Panthers finalists to take to the mat, defeated top-seeded Dylan Milonas of Blair Academy (N.J.), 4-3, to win the 145-pound weight class of the annual Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament at Canon-McMillan High School on Saturday night.
The win made 2012 the sixth consecutive year that Franklin Regional has had a champion at the tournament, the longest active run of any school. The Panthers finished fourth in the final team standings, while Penn-Trafford was 23rd and Norwin was 27th. Blair Academy was the team champion for the second straight year.
Three of Shields' teammates also reached the medal stand — runners-up Tyler Smith and Michael Kemerer and fourth-place finisher Josh Maruca. Heath Coles and Drew Phipps both medaled for Norwin, while Devin Austin was the lone medalist from Penn-Trafford.
But Shields had the biggest win among the local athletes, as he was one of six winners from WPIAL schools and one of four winners from Westmoreland County schools.
“It definitely feels good to win it, but we were hoping to see three (gold medals) come home from the finals,” Shields said.
“It was tough to see Tyler and Mikey lose earlier, but it's great to bring home that medal. We've got six (years of) Powerade champs in a row, and next year, we're going to try and keep it going and get more guys up there.”
Shields fell behind in his match agains Milonas on a first-period takedown, but he escaped to cut the score to 2-1. He got the score to 2-2 with another escape that took nearly all of the second period before scoring the takedown that would swing the bout in his favor.
“It was just scrambling to get those two points. There's no name for it; you just pick it up when you're little,” Shields said. “It was a lot of work and never giving up in every second of the match.”
Milonas scored a third-period escape to make the final 30 seconds tense, as both wrestlers clinged to a limb of their opponent in desperation near the end. Shields took a couple quick peeks at the clock to see how long he had to hang on, and when the final horn sounded, he quickly jumped to his feet in celebration.
“He's a great opponent, and he kept fighting right up to the end,” Shields said. “I did take a couple glances at the clock, but that's the coaches' job. That was one mistake I had, and I won't do that again.”
Earlier in the night, Kemerer was bidding to become a two-time Powerade champ as a sophomore in the 126-pound final against an opponent trying to do the same, Canon-McMillan senior Connor Schram.
Schram got the early edge with a first-period takedown, but Kemerer got back to neutral for a 2-1 score. Schram then allowed Kemerer to stand and tie the to start the second period.
The Big Mac's lone champ on the day got what he wanted with a second takedown, but Kemerer landed on his head as a result of the move. An injury timeout was called, and after examination by the medical staff, Kemerer was not allowed to continue and Schram won by way of injury default.
Smith reached the 132-pound final to improve on a third-place finish in 2011, and in the final, he faced a longtime training partner and fellow junior, Kittanning's Jason Nolf.
Nolf scored two first-period takedowns and generally had control of the match throughout, and even a late flurry from Smith couldn't prevent the Kittanning star from taking a 10-5 win that ran his high-school record to 104-1.
Like Smith, Norwin's Coles improved on his placing from 2011, as the senior reached the 152-pound third-place match against Greensburg Salem's Tyler Reinhart.
The match was evenly battled and could have headed toward overtime, but Coles broke a tie score with a third-period takedown and came away with the bronze medal after a 3-2 decision.
The win didn't just put Coles higher on the medal stand, but it also was his 100th in his high school career, an impressive milestone to hit at a major tournament.
“To place well in these top tournaments always feels good,” Coles said. “It's great to do better than last year, when I got sixth. Jumping up to third feels good.”
Phipps also reached the third-place match for Norwin at 182 pounds, and the freshman battled into extra time before losing and settling for fourth, 3-1, on an overtime takedown by Josh Colello of Cedar Cliff.
A top-four finish is still an impressive one at Powerade, and though he was unhappy to end with a loss, Phipps knew he had a strong weekend.
“Overall, I'm pretty happy, but I should've changed some things in the last match,” Phipps said.
“The main thing I learned in this tournament is that you can't take breaks at all. I took breaks a couple of times, and it cost me some points. You've got to keep in motion at all times.”
Maruca, a sophomore for FR, met the same fate as Phipps in the 138-pound class, as he fell in the third-place match by an 8-3 decision to Joe Galasso of Father Judge.
Austin, a sophomore and P-T's only representative in the medal rounds, never actually took the mat during the Saturday night session. He earned seventh place at 152 pounds with a default victory over Corey Falleroni of Burrell, who had earlier defaulted in the consolation semifinal round, as well.
Having been knocked out of the championship bracket by Coles, Austin did win four bouts on the weekend before adding the fifth via default to earn his medal.
“I think I wrestled pretty good here. I'm pretty happy,” Austin said. “I look forward to this event every year. I actually lost the round before placing last year, so it feels a lot better to get on the medal stand.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or email@example.com.