Local Class AA wrestlers hope to take next step
For 14 area Class AA wrestlers, the first leg of the individual portion of the season ended with positive results as each placed in the top five in Section 2 last week.
This week, eight wrestlers from Mt. Pleasant and six from Southmoreland will try to keep that positive momentum going as they compete in the WPIAL Class AA individual championships Friday and Saturday at Chartiers Valley.
“I think they are peaking right now,” Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Long said.
Long was pleased eight of his 10 entrants into the sectional competition advanced. He's hoping for similar results this week.
“I think that every one of our kids has the ability to succeed at WPIALs, regionals and possibly states,” he said. “But it will be about the desire and who wants to do it. The kids are going to have to step it up at WPIALs if they are going to make it to regionals.”
Three Mt. Pleasant wrestlers — freshman Mike Novak (33-9 at 120 pounds), sophomore Ethan Charlesworth (22-6, 152) and senior Justin Overly (31-8, 182) — each won a section championship at Charleroi last week.
For Charlesworth, his focus is strictly on getting better each week.
“I just have to keep working hard,” said Charlesworth, who advanced to regionals as a freshman at 138 pounds. “I want to make it to regionals. I've been through it and I know what to expect.”
Joining the Mt. Pleasant section champs at WPIALs are sophomore Austin Mears (27-15, 145), seniors Evan Haines (16-9, 160), Austin Piper (16-17, 170) and Eli Holt (senior, 24-11, 195) and freshman Josh Lind (17-13, 220).
Like Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland also has three section champions.
Sophomore Austin Griffiths (26-2, 106), senior Dakota Datz (11-4, 195) and freshman Jacob Beistel (28-2, 285) all trumped the field at sectionals. Griffiths and Beistel are the top seeds in their respective weight class at WPIALs. For Datz, he has shaken off the rust of missing much of the season with a shoulder injury.
“Everything is starting to come together,” Datz said. “I've been working really hard, and my goal is to make it to states.”
After winning sectionals last week, Datz expects another big effort from himself this week.
“I want to win,” he said. “You don't want to settle for a place. You want to be a champion.”
This will be the fourth appearance at WPIALs for Datz. He finished fourth at 182 pounds last year and sixth at 189 pounds as a freshman.
“It's my last chance to do this,” Datz said. “I want to bring a medal home from Hershey. I don't want to come up short.”
The other Southmoreland wrestlers who will compete at WPIALs are freshman Evan Myers (14-12, 120), sophomore Sean Suter (8-14, 152) and senior Shane Cavanaugh (7-12, 170).
“I'm very pleased,” said Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw, noting wrestlers such as Myers, Suter and Cavanaugh were able to move through sectionals with less-than-stellar records. “They are starting to believe, and it's paying off right now. We just keep preaching that you don't win a state championship this week. The goal is to advance.”
First-round, quarterfinal and first-round consolation matches will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The semifinals and consolations will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The consolation finals start at 5 p.m. followed by the championship bouts at 7 p.m.
The top seven wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional tournament March 1-2 at Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.