South Allegheny wrestlers struggle, finish 4th at sectionals
On a night when South Allegheny's wrestling team wanted to showcase how far it had come as a program, the Gladiators struggled to put together a performance worth remembering.
In its first time as a host of a playoff competition, South Allegheny (8-4) dropped two matches to finish in fourth place in the Section 3-AA team tournament Wednesday night. First came a 51-25 setback to subsection B second-place finisher Kittanning (11-4), which was a runner-up in the tournament. But more disappointing for the Gladiators was their 41-36 loss to subsection A cohort Avonworth (5-11), which lost to South Allegheny by 24 points during the regular season.
South Allegheny still advances to the WPIAL Class AA tournament, which begins next week. But coach Anthony DiGiorgio fears his team might find itself paired with a powerhouse in the opening round.
“Three versus four makes a huge difference,” DiGiorgio said. “We could end up with a draw like we did last year, getting a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and I don't think that bodes well with us down as many wrestlers as we're down.”
Two forfeit wins helped the Gladiators take a 12-0 lead over Kittanning in the semifinal. The Wildcats won the next three bouts, including two by pinfall to go ahead, 16-12. Cory Morgo's 12-4 major decision in the 152-pound bout gave South Allegheny a short-lived three-point lead as Kittanning responded by winning six of the final seven bouts, two of which ended with pins and one on a technical fall.
To add to the disappointment, 220-pounder Mark Tortorice suffered a shoulder injury while wrestling up at heavyweight during the match. He defaulted the bout and did not compete in the later match.
Paired with the opponent it defeated, 51-27, in mid-December, South Allegheny started on a bad note. Avonworth claimed the match's first two contested bouts with third-period pinfalls.
Michael Whaby tied the score at 12-12 with a pin 42 seconds into the 138-pound bout, but a technical fall put Avonworth back ahead, 17-12.
South Allegheny won three of the next four bouts as Stephen Shriane earned a 6-2 decision in the 152-pound matchup, and Noah Culp (170 pounds) and Carl Lukens (182) received forfeit victories.
But Khalil Condon put Avonworth on the path toward victory with his second-period pin of Dan Rosak in the 220-pound bout. Two forfeit wins for the Antelopes followed, so Avonworth went ahead by 11, a lead too big for Justo Hernandez to erase with his pin at 113 in the match's final bout.
“I'm happy we got to this point; hosting sectionals was one of my goals, so I'm very proud of them for that,” DiGiorgio said. “But I have two teams, and it's Jekyll and Hyde. I never know which one will show up. But the wrong one showed up tonight.”
Burrell (9-4), which beat Avonworth, 56-21, in the opening round, earned its 10th consecutive section title with a 49-18 victory over Kittanning in the finals.