Knights snap 13-year drought against P-T
In the week before Barack Obama began his second term, Norwin's wrestling team did something it hadn't done since Bill Clinton was president.
The Knights got three falls and two forfeits on their way to a win at Penn-Trafford, 42-21, which snapped a 13-year losing streak in the rivalry by Norwin in the Section 1B-AAA finale for both teams on Jan. 16.
Norwin (2-3 section) got pins by Drew Phipps, Steve Hess and Joel Pezze, whose fall at 132 pounds clinched the win for the Knights. Penn-Trafford (1-4) took an early lead with a pin by Devin Austin, and Dom Zona also scored a fall for the Warriors late in his match.
“It's my eighth year of coaching and seventh year as a head coach, and I've never beaten them,” said Norwin coach Todd Schuchert, who was in uniform for the Knights the last time they beat P-T in a dual match.
“This is a pretty good feeling for us in a rivarly like this. (P-T coach) Rich Ginther was my coach in high school, so coming back to beat him, it seems like things have come full circle.”
When Pezze stepped onto the mat against P-T's Mike Risnear, Norwin held a 33-18 lead with three matches to go. That meant the Warriors needed to win all three and pull 15 team points from them to have a chance.
Those hopes faded quickly, as Pezze scored an early takedown that would be the only points in the bout. The Norwin senior maintained control and turned Risnear to his back at the 1:03 mark of the first period for the deciding points.
“My whole idea going out there was to try and get the win pretty fast,” Pezze said. “I wanted to get the pin early, and it worked. When it was over, I just got up and yelled. I was real excited.”
The Warriors had an early lead from the opening bout when Austin pinned Norwin's Cavante Goins at 152 pounds. The Knights' WPIAL champ, Heath Coles, then met resistance from P-T's Matt Shirey at 160, and he was only able to come away with a 9-2 decision and three points for his team.
A 6-0 decision for P-T's Craig Slepsky (170) over Norwin's Rob Duffy made the team score 9-3 in the Warriors' favor, but then Norwin went on a run and pulled ahead for good.
Phipps (182) got his pin of Jacob Smith in just 40 seconds to tie the score, and Hess (195) pinned P-T's Michael Pifer in the second period of their bout. The Warriors had no opponent for Colin Dalrymple at 220, which added another six points and made the score 21-9.
“It's tough any time you're giving away six points,” Ginther said. “Down low (in the weights), we did it as a strategic move and got a pin (by Zona at 113). But when you're that evenly matched with another team, you can't afford to give up forfeits.”
Zach Diable (285) and Justin Smith (138) also got wins for P-T, while Kevin Miller (forfeit, 106), Jake Friedhof (120), Cody Drum (126) and Jon Twele (145) won matches for Norwin.
The Knights took the first points in eight of the 12 contested weight classes, as Norwin's wrestlers clearly tried to be the aggressors throughout the match.
“Coming into their gym on their senior night, I told our kids that we needed to meet their excitement and be one step above that,” Schuchert said. “We matched their intensity early on, and that swung the match into our favor.”
“Norwin came ready to wrestle, and we didn't. I take part of the blame for that,” Ginther said.
“We're a little banged up here and there, and we had a couple guys step up and do the job, but they did it a lot more than we did tonight.”
Both teams missed the Section 1-AAA playoffs by finishing behind Latrobe, Greensburg Salem and Hempfield in the “B” subsection standings. While the teams have other competitions and matches before then, the primary focus for both Norwin and Penn-Trafford now becomes the upcoming individual tournaments, which begin with sectionals on Feb. 23.
“We've got a dual meet tournament to go to first, and Norwin will be at it, so I'm eager to get back out there with a healthy lineup,” Ginther said. “We'll make that a priority to get healthy for that, finish the team part of the season on a high note and then take the three weeks from there to get ready for the section tournament.”
“Beating P-T is a good feeling, and we've proven that we can hang with any team out there,” Pezze said. “I think everyone has a lot of confidence right now, and they're really excited and ready to wrestle again.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.