Southmoreland wrestlers refocus in time for PIAA tournament
Adversity is something that Southmoreland wrestlers Austin Griffiths and Jacob Beistel were forced to deal with in the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional last week. Both wrestlers dropped out of the winner's bracket, but each showed the mental and physical resolve to earn a spot at the PIAA tournament, to be held Thursday through Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Griffiths (32-4), a sophomore 106-pounder, lost in the regional semifinal but regrouped and earned a 6-3 decision over Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt in the consolation final. Beistel (34-5), a freshman competing in the 285-pound weight class, was dealt a quarterfinal loss, but managed to earn a 6-5 win over Moshannon Valley's Jack Brunnell in the fifth-place match to advance to the state tournament.
“It was definitely tough, but I stayed strong and stayed focused,” Beistel said. “It definitely gives me momentum, and I'm excited to see what I can do.”
As a freshman, Beistel will be making his debut at the state tournament. He is the only ninth-grader in the heavyweight bracket.
“It's really cool that I'm the only freshman,” Beistel said. “I'm looking forward to wrestling all of them and hopefully showing up some of them.”
Beistel's tournament begins with a preliminary-round bout against Sam Breese. Breese (33-4), a junior from Lakeview High School, is the top seed from the Northwest Region.
“Jacob could have crumbled (at regionals), but he showed a lot,” Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said. “He really wanted to get to states, and he has a great opportunity to get to the medal stand if he wrestles his best.”
For Beistel, the key to success will depend on whether or not he can step up his offensive game.
“I need to score more on my feet and do a better job of holding people down on the bottom,” Beistel said. “I think winning is a goal, but my real goal is to place. There's a little bit of pressure, but I'm ready to go.”
While Beistel is new to the state level of competition, Griffiths has been there and found success. As a freshman, Griffiths lost his first match at states but came back to win five in a row to place third.
“With Austin, he knows what to expect and maybe that is a benefit for him,” Shaw said. “Mentally, he has shown a lot of growth. He is a lot more mature and he's preparing to win. He can win it all. That's been his goal since the beginning of the year.”
Griffiths will open the tournament against Wilson senior Jaryd Flank (32-2), the second seed from the Southeast Region.
Like his younger teammate, Griffiths is hoping to ride the momentum gained at the regional tournament.
“I liked that after I lost, I still bounced back and refocused,” Griffiths said. “I know that I have to be warmed up and ready to go.”
Griffiths, like all the wrestlers at states, is competing at a high level. But he believes he can still elevate his performance.
“I've gotten a little better (each week) and I can still fine-tune some things,” Griffiths said. “I'll be ready to wrestle my match and go to the finals.”
The three-day event will begin with preliminary-round matches at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.