Davidson takes second place at Southmoreland

Michael Love
| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

At last year's Southmoreland Holiday Classic wrestling tournament, Gateway's Austin Davidson went 2-2 and bowed out in the second round of consolations.

The junior 170-pounder returned to Southmoreland on Friday and Saturday, and this time, he was determined to make an impact.

Mission accomplished.

Davidson brought home Gateway's lone medal in tournament action, as he came within one victory of capturing the 170-pound title.

Butler junior Ryan Hannon, the fourth seed, topped the No. 1 seed on the way to a 5-1 triumph over Davidson in the finals.

“Austin wrestled very well,” Gateway head coach R.J. Santilli said. “The whole tournament he stuck to what he's good at. He made other wrestlers wrestle his type of match. He was on the offensive the whole tournament and really took it to his opponents.”

Davidson went into the tournament as the No. 10 seed, and he beat the second, third and seventh seeds to get to the finals.

He now is 8-4 on the season. He won six of seven matches since going 2-3 at the season-opening Eastern Area tournament at Gateway.

Davidson beat South Side Area senior Connor Payne, the No. 2 seed, 5-2, in the quarterfinals and won a close 7-6 decision over third-seeded Bobby Thompson, a senior from Blairsville, in the semifinals.

Payne is a four-year starter who finished fourth at last year's WPIAL Class AA tournament. He entered the Southmoreland tournament with more than 90 career varsity wins.

“Austin has practiced hard every day of the year,” Santilli said. “He's improved quite a bit every day.”

Senior A.J. Wilkins, who placed third at 113 pounds at last year's Southmoreland Tournament, was under the weather Friday and Saturday and didn't compete at this year's event.

Santilli said he's not sure how long Wilkins will be out of the lineup, but he hopes he will be able to return to action next week.

Seven other Gators wrestlers won at least one match at the Southmoreland Tournament.

Freshman Justin Smith went 2-2 at 113 pounds. He opened his tournament with a pinfall in 1:45 over Knoch freshman Zach Wilson.

After a second-round loss in the championship bracket, Smith pinned Mt. Pleasant freshman Jeremy Lawrence in the first round of consolations.

Santilli said there were some other good moments at the Southmoreland Tournament, but, he said, a number of his wrestlers could have performed better.

Gateway was scheduled to return to Section 1 action Wednesday night at Penn Hills. It was a match that was to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.

The Gators step away from section competition Friday with a home match against Plum. The first bout is slated for 7 p.m., and Gateway wrestling alumni will be honored during the evening at the Furrie Sports Complex.

Gateway and Plum last wrestled in 2011, and the Mustangs won, 39-28.

“Any time two neighboring schools compete in any sport, it's a good thing,” Santilli said. “There are bragging rights, and people remember that for years. I wrestled for Gateway years ago, and I remember every match against Plum and who I wrestled. Even though we're not section rivals anymore, we're still rivals because we are neighboring schools. You want to win matches like these, because they mean a little bit more.”

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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