South Allegheny wrestlers coast past North Catholic
South Allegheny 113-pound freshman Justo Hernandez already knew that he was going to be awarded a forfeit win over North Catholic if he was able to drop a little more than 2 pounds to make his weight.
Despite having a severe case of the flu, having the ability to help his team stay perfect in the Class AA Section 3A standings was important enough for Hernandez to run a couple of miles just before the match to ensure he would make weight.
“That's the kind of kids we have here on this team,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiGiorgio said. “He knew it was going to be a forfeit, and he still made sure he made weight.”
South Allegheny has a roster full of wrestlers like Hernandez, and it's showing.
“It's team-first for us, then individual second,” DiGiorgio said. “I preached that from the first day I got here. Whatever they do out there is going to be for the best of the team first. The individual stuff works itself out.”
Winning has been working itself out as well.
The Gladiators took advantage of nine forfeits and posted a convincing 78-6 victory over visiting North Catholic to improve to 4-0.
A win over Keystone Oaks (3-1) next week will ensure the Gladiators will host sectionals for the first time in school history.
“I don't think a lot of our kids understand what (hosting the sectionals) mean,” DiGiorgio said. “The success is new to them. It would be good for the district and the sport around here. We want to be that great.”
South Allegheny advanced to the team sectionals the past two years but was overmatched by perennial power Burrell in the first round each time then lost to Keystone Oaks in the consolations. He doesn't expect that to happen again.
“I think we have a better and stronger team than last year,” DiGiorgio said. “What we are doing here is building a winning culture.”
That winning culture is being built by a bunch of young kids. South Allegheny's three top wrestlers are either freshman or sophomores.
Noah Stoker (106) is 10-3, and Hernandez is 12-2. Both are freshmen, and sophomore Seth Hitchens (195) is one of the team leaders.
“They will go beyond WPIALs and into Johnstown at the least,” DiGiorgio said. “I am 100-percent sure of that.”
Along with captains Mike Whaby (132) and Joe Sorrentino (138), the Gladiators have an experienced, talented team from top to bottom that could present problems in the team sectionals in a couple of weeks.
“We are starting to win, and the kids are starting to come out,” DiGiorgio said. “Fans are getting behind us, and the players are spreading the word and telling their friends to join the wrestling team.”
A big reason for the influx of talent at South Allegheny has been its youth program.
“I give a lot of credit to the youth program as well because (the coaches) don't get paid to do that,” DiGiorgio said. “They really put a lot of time into that.”
Against North Catholic, the Gladiators came away with pins in four of the five matches wrestled, with 220-pounder Mark Tortorice being the most impressive.
Tortorice needed only 82 seconds to claim victory.
Also notching pins were Carl Lukens (182), Steve Shriane (152) and Cory Morgo (160).
Picking up forfeit wins were Stoker, Hernandez, Hitchens, Sorrentino, Whaby, Don Rosak (285), Lukas Gaydos (120), Kodi Lundberg (126) and Alex Pergantis (145).
“I have a bunch of soldiers on this team that listen and buy into it,” DiGiorgio said. “We are really excited about what this team is all about.”