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Cougars' Gavazzi repeats as WPIAL champ

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

Charleroi Area wrestler Nick Gavazzi will head to the PIAA Class AA Regional Championships in Johnstown still undefeated and with his second straight WPIAL title in tow.

Gavazzi pinned Beth-Center freshman Anthony Welsh Saturday in the WPIAL Class AA 138-pound finals to capture back-to-back league championships. Gavazzi, now 32-0 on the season, was the No. 1 seed in his weight class.

He will be seeded No. 2 in the 138-pound bracket which begins Friday afternoon at the War Memorial.

Juniata senior Sean Heggs (34-4), the District 6 champion, received the top seed. He and Gavazzi will receive first-round byes. Gavazzi finished a disappointing fifth at Johnstown last year.

“Last year, I lost focus after WPIALs, but this year I feel like all the pressure's off. I've learned from my mistakes and go out wrestle and move on,” Gavazzi said.

“(Being undefeated), you're going to have that target on your back and become the hunted, but I feel this week I can become the hunter again, because I haven't seen a lot of these kids before.”

On Saturday, things didn't unfold as Gavazzi had figured, but Charleroi's standout wrestler was fine with the outcome over the upstart Welsh. Welsh was a surprise finalist after he upset both No. 2 seed Steve Edwards of Burrell and No. 3 seed Jason Miller of Jefferson Morgan by decision to reach the finals.

“He was on a heck of a roll, I couldn't let the way he was wrestling affect me,” Gavazzi said. “I just worry about my matches and keep on trucking.”

Gavazzi worked a one-point decision over Miller in last week's Section 2-AA tournament championship match. Charleroi coach Chris Alexis said the close call with Miller was “more of a blessing.”

“Nick's learning more on the mat, and this year it shows his maturity and how comfortable he is even if he's trailing,” Alexis said. “Going into regionals and states, if he gets down late in the match, he's shown he can stay composed and pull out tough victories.”

Senior Vince Vahaly of Bentworth finished with a silver medal Saturday, dropping the 126-pound final, 4-0, to South Park freshman Greg Bulsak.

Vahaly beat No. 1 seed and defending WPIAL champions Pat DeWitt of Valley in the semifinals.

Other local wrestlers advancing to the regional tournament were Bentworth's Hunter Neely (seventh place, 106 pounds), Jake Rothka (fourth place, 113) Matt Vickless (fifth place, 120), Trevor Wood (sixth place, 132) and Jake Fordyce (sixth place, 220) and Yough's Cody Charles (sixth place, 113), Teddy Charletta (seventh place, 126), Gary Fallecker (sixth place, 170), Lucas Richardson (fifth place, 182) and Tom Sever (third place, 220).

Section 2-AAA tournament

A triumvirate of Belle Vernon Area wrestlers earned Section 2-AAA titles Saturday at Baldwin: Nate Russo (126 pounds), Derek Verkleeren(145), and Adam Nickelson (182).

Nickelson (34-1) rolled through the bracket by pinning all three opponents, including Elizabeth Forward sophomore Luke Fournier in the title match.

Russo (31-4) scored a mild upset, 2-1, over No. 1 seed Ty Buckiso of Peters Township while Verkleeren (24-6) whitewashed No. 1 seed Tyler Steele of Connellsville.

For Ringgold, junior Devin Fallenstein outlasted Upper St. Clair's Dmitry Wilding, 3-1, to capture the 160-pound title and Elizabeth Forward senior Lukas Etzel (25-7) beat BVA junior Brendan Hasson, 3-1, in the 120-pound final.

Taking home second place finishes were Ringgold's Douglas Gudenburr (106) , BVA freshman Milton Kobaly (170) and sophomore Patrick Mayernik (220).

The top six finishers in each weight advanced to the WPIAL AAA Championships starting Thursday at Norwin.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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