Freshmen make impact on mat at SW Regionals
South Park freshman Greg Bulsak described himself as a little lackadaisical when he looked back on the first month of this season during the opening day of the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional championships.
“I slacked around until about Christmas,” the 126-pounder said. “Just wasn't doing enough at practice. Not working hard enough.”
Oh, how far the young Eagle has come.
Bulsak now belongs to the WPIAL's group of fab freshmen that also includes Derry 113-pounder George Phillippi and Beth-Center 138-pounder Anthony Welsh. They put the rest of the region on notice with strong performances Friday at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.
A winner of a WPIAL title last weekend, Bulsak is two victories away from adding a regional championship. He joins two other WPIAL wrestlers, Valley's Pat Dewitt and Jefferson-Morgan's John Demaske, in the 126-pound semifinals; he'll wrestle Dewitt.
Fair to say Bulsak overcame any freshman jitters — and with a first-round bye, he had plenty of time overthink things as he lounged in a spacious hockey arena.
“I don't like sitting around; I get tired,” said Bulsak, who won, 4-2, in the quarterfinals. “My match was a little closer than I expected, but that happens.”
Phillippi, the WPIAL champion who received a first-round bye, won his only bout by injury default late in the third period to reach the semifinals.
“I was pretty nervous just know it was regionals,” he said. “I liked having a (long) match. It helps keep your weight down. And it's a good warm-up.”
He will wrestle Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick, a returning champion, in his first match Saturday.
Welsh, a WPIAL runner-up, cruised to a 15-5 win in the first round and then pinned Avella's Nick Kusich in the quarterfinals.
“I never expected myself to be in this situation,” said Welsh, who will wrestle No. 1 seed Sean Heggs of Juniata in the semifinals. “It's a little easier than I thought just because I got a good seed.”
At least one WPIAL wrestler advanced to the semifinals in every weight class. Kittanning's Jason Nolf (132), Jefferson-Morgan's Dustin Conti (170) and Burrell's Dakota DesLauriers (182) ranked among the least surprising semifinal-round qualifiers. All three are undefeated. Nolf and DesLauriers are two-time returning champions, while Conti is a defending champ.
Possibilities for WPIAL finals rematches exist at eight weight classes.
Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt and Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths can match up in the title match at 106.
“I think it's my time,” said McDermitt, who received the top seed after he ended a long losing streak to Griffiths last week in the championship bout. “Last week was a big motivator.”
If Burrell's J.R. Andrejcik has his way, Keystone Oaks' Nick Zanetta and Nolf won't meet in a 132-pound title bout for the third straight week. Andrejcik meets Zanetta in the semifinals.
“I need to make him wrestle my match,” said Andrejcik, who placed third in the WPIAL. “I like the underdog role. I have something to prove and nothing to lose.”
Semifinals begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, and the medal matches begin at 5:15 p.m. The top five finishers in each weight class advance to the PIAA championships beginning Thursday at Giant Center in Hershey.