Connellsville senior closes out career with 3rd-place finish in Hershey
HERSHEY — As Ethan Kenney was hugging his brother Tyler under the stands at the Giant Center on Saturday night, Connellsville wrestling coach Tom Dolde spoke about how much he'll be missed.
The Connellsville senior ended his high school career by placing third at the PIAA Class AAA Championships, his best finish in four seasons. He placed seventh twice.
Kenney (37-4, 158-30) came back from a tough 3-2 loss to Cumberland Valley sophomore Patrick Duggan in the Saturday morning semifinals to defeat Easton senior Robert Rizzolino, 6-3, and Middletown senior Bryce Killian, 3-1, in overtime. Killian had won four consecutive matches before falling to Kenney.
“One good thing, it's better than I've ever done before,” Kenney said. “The only way I would have been more pleased is if it would have been first.
“The last match, I actually was pretty happy with how I continued to wrestle the whole match and finishing better the normal. For once, I didn't go in the defensive mode and I kept moving.”
In his third-place match, Kenney escaped a takedown by using a backward flip. He then recorded a takedown in overtime during a scramble.
“It was all stuff I do in practice,” he said. “It almost comes naturally. I stayed scrambling and came out on top.”
Dolde said Kenney is his own worst critic.
“I hate to see him go,” Dolde said. “He's been great for Connellsville wrestling, representing the school and the community. He's been one of the best kids I've ever had. He placed in Hershey three times and that's a compliment to him for his hard work.
“If I was a college coach I say he's one of the best in the state. As an athlete, as a student and as a human being, he's one of the best I've been around.”
Kenney was a two-time WPIAL champion, a four-time PIAA qualifier and a three-time PIAA placewinner.
Southmoreland sophomore Austin Griffiths also won his final match of the tournament. He finished fifth at 106 pounds in Class AA.
Griffiths (36-6, 74-11) avenged a loss to Forest Hills sophomore Triston Law at the Southwest Regional, winning 1-0.
“In my two losses, I gave up to many big points,” Griffiths said. “It seems I'm pretty good at everything, and then I give up big points.
“I have to get mentally tougher. I have to work on fighting back in matches if I get down.”
Griffiths finished third as a freshman. He knows he's a better wrestler than he's shown.
“When Austin takes guys down and moves his feet, he's as good as anyone,” Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw said. “He had a tough quarterfinal loss and came back to beat a good wrestler (Tyshawn White), who I thought was the best on his feet in the tournament and controlled him, and then lost to a regional champion.
“He regrouped and came back with a win on Saturday. It's great to finish on top in your final match and it's something to build on for next year.”
Shaw said Griffiths is a very gifted wrestler who needs to become tougher.
“He has to figure out how to wrestle better when he's down in a match,” Shaw said. “He takes too long to regroup. He'll get better.'