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Southmoreland sophomore getting used to target on his back

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South Side Beaver, Sr.

Claim to fame: Reckner (23-2), who is ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds in Class AA, finished in third place with a 5-3 decision over Butler's Korey Caudill at the Chartiers-Houston tournament earlier this season. Reckner finished first at the Southmoreland Tournament with a 5-3 decision over Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick. In early January, Reckner was named as the Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament after pinning West Allegheny's Ryan Cunningham at 1:46 to win the Midwestern Athletic Conference Tournament.

“I have done all right,” Reckner said. “I can do better. I know I need to do better if I want to place at states. I think I will be ready for it.”

Reckner will compete this week at the Section 1-AA individual tournament.

What are your college plans for next year?

I'm stuck between Thiel and Gannon. I'm pretty sure I'm going to wrestle at either one and major in biology. I just don't know where I'm going yet. I have to visit over night and see which one I like better. I need to figure out where I want to live the next four or five years of my life and where I feel more at home.

How do you think you will do in the section tournament?

I know I going to make to it states. Now, at the section tournament it doesn't matter if I take first. I know I'm going to Hershey, and there I'm going to wrestle (all) out for those matches. It's my senior year, and it's my time to shine.

What has been the most memorable moment so far in your career?

My favorite moment would have been during my sophomore at regionals when I defeated Burrell's Zach Kelly during the consolation finals. With this win, I was guaranteed a spot at the state tournament. Also, I would have to say placing at Powerade during my freshman year.

When do you think you're at your best on the mat?

I'm a neutral wrestler. I know I can control the guy and control the opponent on our feet. I just go out there and try to wrestle my best.

— Andrew John

Class AAA Rankings

106: 1. Luke Pletcher, Latrobe (29-2); 2. Gage Curry, North Hills (26-2); 3. Brendon Price, Canon-McMillan (26-6); 4. Kevin Miller, Norwin (12-5); 5. Mike Heinl, Shaler (17-5).

113: 1. A.C. Headlee, Waynesburg (31-3); 2. Dom Forys, NA (33-2); 3. James Harrison, W. Mifflin (21-1); 4. Ricky Cavallo, Hempfield (24-6); 5. Mitch Hartman, Belle Vernon (16-6).

120: 1. Sam Krivus, Hempfield (28-3); 2. Dalton Macri, Canon-McMillan (28-5); 3. Vincenzo Joseph, Central Catholic (17-7); 4. Brenden Hasson, Belle Vernon (30-3); 5. Conner Medlang, Franklin Regional, (6-2).

126: 1. Connor Schram, Canon-McMillan (29-3); 2. Michael Kemerer, Franklin Regional (20-4); 3. Tyler Walker, North Hills (28-1); 4. Tyler Buckiso, Peters Township (25-2); 5. Nate Russo, Belle Vernon (21-3).

132: 1. Tyler Smith, F. Reg. (25-3); 2. Drew Walker, North Hills (26-4); 3. Italo Merante, Peters Twp. (21-2); 4. Joel Pezze, Norwin (15-5); 5. Jake Ardellitz, Kiski Area (23-10).

138: 1. Josh Maruca, F. Reg. (24-5); 2. Jesse Rodgers, NA (30-4); 3. Justin Alexander, C. Catholic (30-6); 4. Ethan Kenney, Connellsville (23-6); 5. Sean LaVella, Hempfield (23-4).

145: 1. Josh Shields, F. Reg. (24-4); 2. Cole Landowski, Kiski Area (29-2); 3. Kevin Synan, Hampton (20-5); 4. Chris Nuss, Central Cath. (20-10); 5. Derek Verkleeren, Belle Vernon (20-6).

152: 1. Heath Coles, Norwin (16-3); 2. Tyler Reinhart, G. Salem (29-5); 3. Kyle Skelly, Kiski Area (22-4); 4. Kyle Coniker, Central Catholic (23-6); 5. Devin Austin, Penn-Trafford (24-6).

160: 1. Zack Zavatsky, Latrobe (30-1); 2. Zach Voytek, G. Salem (34-1); 3. Austin Bell, Belle Vernon (27-5); 4. Jonathan Avon, North Hills (23-1); 5. Brendan Burnham, Pine-Richland (22-3).

170: 1. Cody Wiercioch, Canon-McMillan (31-1); Kellan Stout, Mt. Lebanon (21-3); 3. Noah Wilps, CV (15-5); 4. Brandon Olszewski, Hampton (18-4); 5. Damon Drositis, Hopewell (19-1).

182: 1. Adam Nickelson, Belle Vernon (25-1); 2. Alex DiCiantis, North Allegheny (28-2); 3. Drew Phipps, Norwin (21-4); 4. Tyler Worthing, Kiski Area (26-9); 5. Brent Blaharczyk, McGuffey (14-4).

195: 1. Matt McCutcheon, Kiski Area (29-0); 2. Jake Hart, Hampton (23-1); 3. Alen Turcinhodzic, North Hills (23-4); 4. Zach Smith, NA (29-7); 5. Anthony Cable, G. Salem (22-4).

220: 1. Alex Campbell, Canon-McMillan (29-5); 2. Zach DeLuca, Central Catholic (27-7); 3. Cole Macek, Montour (19-2); 4. Layne Skundrich, North Allegheny (16-4); 5. Dylan Miller, Connellsville (29-4).

285: 1. Shane Kuhn, Kiski Area (31-0); 2. Damon Sims Jr., Hopewell (17-1); 3. Luke Fleck, F. Reg. (6-0); 4. Angelo Broglia, Canon-McMillan (29-6); 4. Tyler Lever, Fox Chapel (16-4); 5. Noah Shulman, Hampton (22-4).

Class AA Rankings

106: 1. Austin Griffiths, Southmoreland (23-2); 2. Brendon Howard, Jefferson-Morgan (28-3); 3. Austin McDermitt, Burgettstown (27-4).

113: 1. George Phillippi, Derry (28-3); 2. Seth Carr, South Fayette (26-2); 3. Zach Swarrow, Beth-Center (15-4).

120: 1. Nathan Reckner, South Side Beaver (23-1); 2. Rich McGinnis, Chartiers-Houston (27-11); 3. Mike Carr, South Fayette (20-7).

126 : 1. Patrick DeWitt, Valley (26-7); 2. Vince Vahaly, Bentworth (23-3); 3. Greg Bulsak, S. Park (23-6).

132: 1. Jason Nolf, Kittanning (31-0); 2. Nick Zanetta, Keystone Oaks (23-1); 3. Shane Gentry, South Side Beaver (27-1).

138: 1. Nick Gavazzi, Charleroi (21-0); 2. Steven Edwards, Burrell (22-5); 3. Jason Miller, Jefferson-Morgan (30-6).

145: 1. Tanner Sutton, C-H (33-5); 2. Phil Marra, Burrell (16-5); 3. Grant Fetchet, SF (25-6).

152: 1. Boe Bonzo, Freedom (18-3); 2. Corey Falleroni, Burrell (18-4); 3. Taylor Jack, Kittanning (26-8).

160: 1. Connor Payne, SS Beaver (27-2); 2. Nico Brown, B-C (16-7); 3. Bill Bowlen, J-M (24-8).

170: 1. Dustin Conti, J-M (28-0); 2. Mike Fetchet, SF (28-1); 3. Dalton Rosta, Laurel (16-2).

182: 1. D. DesLauriers, Burrell (21-0); 2. Terrell Fields, Valley (28-3); 3. Justin Overly, Mt. Pleasant (27-8).

195: 1. Garrett Vulcano, C-H (33-2); 2. Eli Holt, Mt. Pleasant (23-10); 3. Chris Williams, Yough (20-6).

220: 1. Jake Temple, Avella (27-1); 2. Tom Sever, Yough (24-6); 3.Allen Cratsenburg, Highlands (5-1).

285: 1. Jake Beistel, Southmoreland (24-2); 2. Allan Beattie, Burrell (23-8); 3. Rob Wolak, South Park (15-6).

— Paul Schofield

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

There really isn't a bull's-eye on Southmoreland sophomore Austin Griffiths' wrestling uniform, but when you're ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL and state in Class AA at 106 pounds, you are a target.

When you're a target, you expect to get your opponent's best. That's a challenge Griffiths welcomes.

With a record of 29-2 this season and 64-7 in his career, Griffiths begins a four-week journey Saturday at the Section 2-AA tournament at Charleroi — a trip he hopes ends atop the PIAA championship podium March 9 at the Giant Center in Hershey.

For the wrestling purist, this is the time of the season that counts.

Griffiths placed third at the PIAA and Southwest Regional tournaments a year ago and was the WPIAL runner-up, falling to Patrick DeWitt of Valley, 1-0.

But Griffiths has worked hard to get better. His previous strength was preventing opponents from scoring from the bottom position. Now he's scoring from that position.

“Austin is able to turn opponents from the top position,” first-year Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said. “Before, Austin kept things close. Now he's opening up his style, which I like.

“Last year, he was letting kids in the match with that head and arm move. Now he can tilt you or cradle you. You don't know where he's coming from. That's his biggest improvement.”

Griffiths has met tough competition this season. His losses were to Derry freshman George Phillippi, when he went up to 113 pounds, and Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher, the state's top-ranked Class AAA wrestler at 106.

He's dominated the rest of his opponents, but Shaw said the loss to Pletcher was an eye opener.

“He's starting to do the extra little things top wrestlers do,” Shaw said. “He goes to different clubs or stays after practice to get an extra lift in. He knows he's the hunted in the Class AA bracket. He's got to do everything in his power to stay on top the podium. That's where he wants to be, and it was his goal was at the beginning of the season.”

His goals also include becoming the school's first state champion.

“It feels pretty good to be ranked No. 1 in the state,” Griffiths said. “I don't feel any pressure because I've been putting in the work. I've been working hard, and so much is pride.”

He said he learned plenty from the losses to Phillippi and Pletcher.

“I've had good matches and some bad ones,” Griffiths said. “I've been able to bounce back from my bad matches. My goals are to get to states and win. I know what to expect at states. I'm sure I'll have to meet some of the kids I beat last year.”

Griffiths said he's a better wrestler on his feet and on the bottom, but he knows to win matches he'll have to be able to escape. The two-time Junior Olympic state champion has received help from former Connellsville state champion Steven Bell, a volunteer assistant.

“I like putting yourself against someone else and getting a challenge from it,” Griffiths said. “It pushes you to your limits. It's fun.”

Shaw added: “The sky is the limit for Griffiths.”

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @pschofield_Trib.




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