Matt McCutcheon has socked every opponent he has faced this season.
He owes plenty to his work ethic, coaches and teammates for helping him become arguably the best wrestler to come out of Kiski Area. But being the former superstition-driven baseball player he is, McCutcheon is quick to give at least partial credit to, well, his socks.
“I have these Penn State socks and I have been wearing them since last year's Super 32 Tournament,” said McCutcheon, a senior 195-pounder who has signed with two-time defending national champion Penn State. “Last year, I didn't wash them. This year, I have washed them once. You have to be careful you don't wash the luck out of them.”
Luck had little to do with McCutcheon pinning his way to Kiski Area's first PIAA championship last winter.
But white-and-navy socks, pre-match routines — whatever — it's working again for McCutcheon, who began defense of his WPIAL and state titles last weekend with his second straight Section 1-AAA title.
He'll go for his second WPIAL title beginning Thursday at Norwin. Then he'll hope to move on to Hershey to defend his state title.
“My goal this year is to dominate,” said McCutcheon (31-0), who is Kiski Area's all-time leader in wins and pins and is ranked No. 1 in the country in his weight class by Intermat. “I had an overtime match in WPIALs and states last year. I still think I can score more points.”
McCutcheon, who was 41-1 last season, knows the path to a second state title often is tougher than the first, a mine field with no guarantees. He points to a pair of opponents who could stand in his way: Hampton's Jake Hart, who he could see this week, and Council Rock South's P.J. Steinmetz, who also has committed to Penn State. Steinmetz lost to Central Catholic's Perry Hills, a Plum native, in last year's state semifinals. Hills beat Hart in the finals.
McCutcheon, who is 152-12 in his career, hasn't met much resistance so far.
McCutcheon, who in April will compete for the USA Wrestling Magazine “Dream Team” in Chicago, and junior teammate Shane Kuhn, the Cavaliers' heavyweight who won his first section title last week, have the distinction of being the last remaining undefeated wrestlers in WPIAL Class AAA.
Neither wrestler is flaunting his unblemished success mainly because it hasn't been capped with WPIAL and/or PIAA gold medals.
“They have to take every match and wrestle it to the fullest,” Kiski Area coach Chuck Tursky said. “They're both great competitors. If they go undefeated, that's something they can look back on later. If they stop and start looking at that now, they're not competing like they should be.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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