Davidson lone Gateway medalist at Eastern Areas
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Gateway senior Austin Davidson's 2012-13 season didn't end the way he had hoped, as an injury at the Section 1-AAA tournament prevented him from realizing his goal of qualifying for the WPIAL championships.
He refocused his goals for his senior year and wanted to get his final varsity campaign off to a strong start.
At Saturday's 36th annual Eastern Area Invitational Wrestling Tournament at Gateway High School, Davidson got off to the start he wanted and almost brought home the 170-pound championship.
Belle Vernon's Milton Kobaly built a sizeable lead on Davidson in the finals at 170 before scoring the pin at the 3:38 mark.
“I wanted to go out there and try to set a quick pace,” Davidson said. “(Kobaly) kind of countered that and slowed it down. He knew how to throw and some other moves that I wasn't used to and were out of my scheme.”
Davidson started out the two-day tournament with a pin of West Mifflin's Vincent Williams in 3:20 and followed that up with a fall in 2:50 over Blackhawk's Jarod Ahlgren.
He then punched his ticket to the finals with a 3-2 win over the top seed — Jefferson-Morgan sophomore Bill Bowlen.
Bowlen, who went 31-13 last year and placed sixth at 160 pounds at the WPIAL AA championships, had scored a 1:45 fall over Burgettstown's Tristan Nicholson in the quarterfinals.
“Austin had a great tournament and a nice semifinal win,” Gateway head coach R.J. Santilli said. “I am proud of the way he worked and wrestled. He will learn from each result and get better.”
Davidson was Gateway's lone top-six medalist.
The Gators finished 13th in the team standings. Kiski Area captured its fifth straight EAIWT team title, as it edged second-place North Allegheny by 15 points.
Belle Vernon, Jefferson-Morgan and Plum rounded out the top five.
Santilli said there were a mix of highlights and struggles in the first competition of the season.
“It was a little disappointing,” Santilli said.
“You set goals higher than where we ended up and wanted to see more than one guy medal. It's not to take away from some of the guys because they worked hard and did their best. I always appreciate their best. But in the same respect, their best sometimes has to be a little better. There were a number of wrestlers, including some veterans, who I expected to place higher.”
Six other Gateway wrestlers won at least one match at the tournament.
Freshman Mason Boehm scored a pair of technical falls en route to a 2-2 record at 113 pounds.
“Mason had a nice approach and game plan and stuck to it,” Santilli said. “He was able to do it most of the time. Two tech falls in a tournament is nice for a freshman. He can really build on his first varsity matches.”
Seniors Thaer Shouman (132) and Zac Bell (182) each went 2-2, while juniors Justin Leone (138) and Jalen Key (145) both were 1-2.
Senior Cody Pawlowski (195) went 1-1, including a 14-1 victory over Bethel Park's Matt Nolan in the consolation bracket, before an injury forced him to default from his next match.
Santilli said it is simply important for his wrestlers to learn from everything they experienced at the Eastern Area tournament.
“It's important to remember it's not how you start but how you finish which is most important,” Santilli said.
“It's only the first event, and we have a lot of wrestling left.”
Gateway was slated to wrestle McKeesport on Wednesday in the Section 1 opener for both squads. Santilli said that match was big with playoff implications.
“All of our section matches are important because we have goals of getting back to the playoffs,” Santilli said. “We know Kiski Area and Franklin Regional will be huge challenges.”
Gateway hosts Kiski Area in section action on Tuesday at 7 p.m. It is the final dual meet in December, and the Gators will spend a few days between Christmas and New Year's Day at the annual Southmoreland Tournament.
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