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Gateway wrestling team in mix for a spot in the WPIAL AAA team tournament

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Gateway varsity wrestling team in on the doorstep of its first trip to the WPIAL Class AAA team tournament since 2006.

The Gators were 3-1 in their subsection of Section 1 before their section finale against Franklin Regional, also 3-1, on Wednesday.

The match, which was contested past the deadline for this week's edition, was to determine second place in the subsection behind Kiski Area.

Gateway is guaranteed at least third place in the subsection. The top two teams from each of the two Section 1 subsections will compete next Wednesday for one of the top four WPIAL tournament spots from the section.

The third-place teams from each subsection will wrestle each other, also next Wednesday, to determine the fifth qualifying team from Section 1. Five teams from each of the four sections make up the 20-team WPIAL field.

“It was one of the goals on our checklist at the beginning of the season,” Santilli said. “I think it's great for the guys. They've pulled together and worked hard for each other.”

Senior 120-pounder A.J. Wilkins, who missed the Southmoreland tournament, the Allegheny County tournament and a couple of dual matches with a foot injury, didn't compete against Franklin Regional and isn't expected back for next week's section playoff match.

Wilkins, 6-1 this season, has a doctor's appointment Friday to see when he can be cleared for action.

“A.J. is very frustrated,” Santilli said. “He really wants to get on the mat. We want him to be healthy at the right time.”

Senior heavyweight Jaymar Parrish is working back from a broken ankle suffered late in the Gators' football season.

“He feels good and is itching to go,” Santilli said.

“He's close. It will take him a few days to get into wrestling shape, but we'll work with him, and he'll work hard.”

Santilli said that despite not garnering any medals at Saturday's Allegheny County tournament, his wrestlers competed hard.

“We had some guys get multiple wins, which was good,” he said. “(Junior heavyweight) Zac Bell got his first win on the mat, and it was against a kid who was much bigger than him. He gave up a lot of weight because he's only at about 210 pounds.”

Senior Mike Limbacher (152) and junior Austin Davidson (160) each won three matches at the county tournament, while sophomores Justin Leone (132) and Jaylen Key (138), junior Cody Pawlowski (182) and senior Dom McKenna (195) each went 2-2.

“Even though we didn't have any medalists, we didn't leave with our heads down,” Santilli said. “We're not satisfied with it, but it will help us work even harder. Everybody is of the same mind frame to get better.”

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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