Mt. Pleasant, Southmoreland wrestlers pursue state berths at regional tournament
The PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional Tournament will be filled with top-end talent, so it's imperative that the seven Mt. Pleasant and four Southmoreland wrestlers come ready to compete at a high level Friday and Saturday at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
Only the top five wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the state championships March 7-9 at Giant Center in Hershey.
Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Long is thrilled to have seven wrestlers competing in the two-day event, but cautions that advancing through this level of competition will not be easy.
“We did exceptionally well at WPIALs,” Long said. “This is more difficult. The level of competition is a lot tougher. They just need to keep the momentum up and keep moving forward. How hard you work is going to determine how successful you are at regionals. There are no average kids at regionals.”
The seven Mt. Pleasant wrestlers looking to punch their ticket to states are freshmen Mike Novak (120 pounds, 36-11) and Josh Lind (220, 20-15); sophomores Austin Mears (145, 30-17) and Ethan Charlesworth (152, 25-8); and seniors Austin Piper (170, 19-19), Justin Overly (182, 35-9) and Eli Holt (195, 27-13).
Overly placed the highest in the group, placing third at the WPIAL tournament last week.
“I just need to step up my game and keep working hard,” Overly said.
Overly missed last season's tournaments with a knee injury and is extra motivated as a senior.
“It gives me an extra push knowing this will be my last shot,” Overly said.
Southmoreland's quartet will have plenty of motivation. Sophomore Austin Griffiths (106, 28-3) and freshman Jacob Beistel (285, 30-3) each entered the WPIAL tournament as the top seed, yet each lost in the championship match. Senior Dakota Datz (195, 14-6) qualified as the WPIAL's seventh seed.
“Mentally, we have to get back on track,” Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said. “We're focusing on that with Austin. Dakota had a bad tournament and Beistel had a bad final match. We're working to get back mentally, and it's a challenge.”
Griffiths was disappointed with his 9-1 loss to Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt in the WPIAL finals, but he is trying to use the experience as a tool as he prepares for regionals.
“I'm just trying to get in more practice and trying to learn from my mistakes,” Griffiths said. “I want to go out there (to regionals) and make it to states and make it to the finals,” Griffiths said.
Freshman Evan Myers (120, 16-15) will try to build on a positive WPIAL experience after placing sixth.
“I'm excited about Evan Myers,” Shaw said. “I don't think many people thought he would make it through, and he has wrestled outstanding.”
Action at the regional begins with preliminary bouts at 1 p.m. Friday.
Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.