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Charleroi's Gavazzi hopes to remain unbeaten, claim regional title

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Charleroi Area's Nick Gavazzi pins Beth-Center's Anthony Welsh at 3:40 during their 138-pound championship match during the WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at Chartiers Valley High School on February 23, 2013. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi (top) pins Laurel's Harley Peterson at 3:52 during their 138-pound match in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class AA Individual Wrestling Championships at Chartiers Valley High School on February 22, 2013. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

By his own admission, Nick Gavazzi achieved what he had set out to achieve when he won the 138-pound WPIAL Class AA individual wrestling championship last season.

This time, he's not nearly as content with a mere WPIAL title. Gavazzi, a junior at Charleroi, wants so much more.

Gavazzi is out to improve on his fifth-place finish at last year's PIAA Southwest Regional individual wrestling tournament as he preps for this season's event Friday and Saturday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown.

“Last year, I think I lost focus after WPIALs,” said Gavazzi, who still competes in the 138-pound weight class. “That was the ultimate goal, but this year the priorities are slightly higher and I'm keeping focused. I've got to take it one match at a time, though, and look just at the first one right now.”

Spoken like a wrestler who truly has mastered the mental side of his craft.

Gavazzi has mastered virtually every part of his game this season — his record speaks for itself and says so. He's 32-0 after sweeping sections and WPIALs, improving his high school career record to 97-12.

There's a good chance Gavazzi reaches the 100-victory mark this weekend. To win the Southwest Region title, he will need to win four consecutive matches.

Last season, it was Blairsville's Noah Tarr who eliminated Gavazzi in the Southwest semifinals. Gavazzi already has avenged that defeat, at the Southmoreland tournament in December.

“That helped his confidence,” Charleroi wrestling coach Chad Alexis said. “Last year, being a sophomore, he was still young, and it really affected him in the regional tournament. He got down on himself before he ended up coming back to take fifth to go to states.

“Mentally, I know it bothered him a lot. I definitely think there's another step in him of reaching the goal of placing high on the (PIAA championships) podium this year.”

Last season, Gavazzi won one of his three matches at the PIAA individual championships in Hershey. This season's championships are next week, and Gavazzi will be there — provided he finishes among the top five at the Southwest Regional, of course.

Besides turning the tables on Tarr, Alexis points to another match that has shown Gavazzi is a different wrestler than he was last season. In the Section 2-AA championship match last week, Gavazzi fell behind Jefferson-Morgan's Jason Miller when Miller caught him in a five-point move late in the first period.

“Nick kept his composure and wrestled back and pulled out a victory,” Alexis said. “His biggest thing is maintaining that composure, keeping his mentality and just not getting too frustrated.”

Gavazzi added: “You've got to be mentally tough. You definitely can't let one thing ruin you. Stay composed. Even if you are losing, just keep pressing.”

Gavazzi has been wrestling since he was young, following in the footsteps of older brother Casey, who also wrestled at Charleroi. Nick Gavazzi wrestles year-round, and Alexis said his work ethic and explosiveness are his best attributes.

“I'm still maturing, factoring in my past experiences,” Gavazzi said. “Success, it's the hard work you put into it.

“You've got to get better everyday. That's the goal every day — get a little better, and I think that's what's put me on the next level this year. I've really put in the work, and I guess it's showing on the mat.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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