3 WPIAL wrestlers win PIAA Class AA titles
HERSHEY — Burrell senior Dakota DesLauriers' sizeable fan following gathered in Section 109 at Giant Center on Saturday afternoon, right in front of a wall with a large “Champions Club” sign on it.
After finishing a little short of a state title the previous three years, DesLauriers capped his high school career by defeating Muncy senior Troy Hembury, 3-1, in the finals of the 182-pound weight class at the PIAA wrestling championships. DesLauriers spun Hembury (42-2) to the mat with 11 seconds left in the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
“I baited him to go one way, and then I snapped him back the other way, so a little bit of a misdirection (move),” said DesLauriers, who previously placed sixth, third and second in the state. “Late in the third, I didn't want to risk going into overtime, so I knew I had to get it done.”
DesLauriers (36-0) delivered the WPIAL the last of its three PIAA champions. Derry Area freshman George Phillippi defeated South Fayette senior Seth Carr, 1-0, in the 113-pound final, and Kittanning junior Jason Nolf edged Keystone Oaks senior Nick Zanetta, 4-2, at 132.
Seconds after he became Burrell's fifth wrestler to win a state title, DesLauriers hugged his coaches and then headed for his posse, where, among others, the first Buc to win gold, Joel DesLauriers, Dakota's uncle, waited.
“It's a personal goal I've always had, even since I was real little,” DesLauriers said. “I said I was going to do this. Senior year, last chance. It's really sweet, really nice.”
None of the three championship-winning bouts for WPIAL wrestlers lacked drama.
Phillippi, who also defeated Carr, 1-0, two weeks ago for the WPIAL title, reaffirmed his reputation as a talented rider on top. He escaped from Carr 20 seconds into the second period for the bout's only point.
In the third, he remained in control of Carr for the entire two minutes. As he lay on top of a sprawled Carr (39-5), Phillippi turned and watched the bout's final 8.0 seconds tick off the clock.
“I can hold anybody down, I feel like,” Phillippi said. “But I have to work on my feet. The last two matches, I didn't score at all on my feet, and if I was better on my feet, the (semifinal) might not even have went into overtime.”
Regardless of style points, Phillippi (42-4) added to Derry's string of recent state champions: The Trojans have claimed nine individual titles in nine years, including two in 2011. And he initiated a discussion about whether he can follow 2012 graduate Jimmy Gulibon as a four-time PIAA champion.
“I know it's a possibility, but I'm just going to take it one match at a time,” Phillippi said. “You never know who's coming up. Like me, obviously — nobody knew I was coming.”
Nolf's win over Zanetta — his fourth in a final-round bout in as many weeks — progressed similar to the previous meetings. Zanetta (35-5), a Pitt recruit, scored a takedown 28 seconds into the bout, but Nolf (45-0) quickly escaped. Then Nolf hit a takedown with 2.0 seconds left in the first period.
Nolf added to his lead with an escape early in the second period, and, most importantly, in the third, he maintained control of Zanetta, whose chose the bottom position despite his past difficulties with getting free.
“Last week, I got out on him twice, so I was thinking I could get out,” said Zanetta, who previously lost by scores of 1-0, 3-0 and 8-6. “You have to be confident in what you do. You practice this stuff 24/7, 365 days a year. You've just got to trust the stuff you practice and preach.”
With the victory, Nolf secured his second state title and improved to 132-1 in his career — his only loss came in the PIAA semifinals last season.
“I kind of felt better about (this title) because I lost last year,” Nolf said, “and I just didn't want to lose again.”
The WPIAL's only other finalist, Chartiers-Houston senior Garrett Vulcano (45-3), lost, 7-0, in the 195-pound title bout to Milton senior Ryan Solomon (40-0), a defending PIAA champion.