Valley's Dewitt edges familiar foe, Kiski Area's Hardaway, at WCCA
Though he made his first trip to Hershey for the PIAA individual wrestling championships a season ago, Valley's Pat Dewitt regards his junior year as somewhat unfulfilling.
Too often as a junior, Dewitt left tournaments as a placewinner but not a champion or even a finalist.
Through a month-and-a-half of his senior season, Dewitt has visited the top of a medal stand each time he's had the chance.
The Vikings senior 126-pounder improved to 16-0 and claimed his second title of the season, as he beat Kiski Area senior Ryan Hardaway, 6-4, in the finals of the Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament Saturday at Franklin Regional.
“I knew this was going to be my year,” Dewitt said. “I'm trying to get to the top of the podium at states.”
The Hardaway-Dewitt final was one of three championship bouts in the tournament that involved two wrestlers from the Alle-Kiski Valley.
Despite their proximity to one another, Hardaway and Dewitt wrestled only one other time in their high school careers: In his first contested match as a freshman, Dewitt lost to Hardaway 6-0. However, they know each other well from training sessions together as middle-schoolers in the basement of the father of Dane Johnson, a New Kensington resident who starred at Shady Side Academy.
“We practiced together since we were in about sixth grade, so we know each other's style pretty well,” said Hardaway, a four-time WCCA placewinner. “It's good memories of us just battling. There were tears.”
Both Hardaway and Dewitt survived overtime scares in the semifinals to reach the title bout. Dewitt, who had three takedowns and allowed four escapes, became Valley's first WCCA champion since Kyle Dudley won a title in 2009.
“My semifinal was a wake-up call that showed me I had to open up on my feet more,” said Dewitt, who placed fourth at 126 in the tournament last season. “I was pretty much on the defensive that whole (semifinal) match. … I know I can wrestle on my feet. That's what I'm best at.”
With the WCCA heavyweight title on the line, defending WPIAL champs Shane Kuhn and Al Beattie clashed for the fourth time in two seasons, and Kuhn, a Kiski Area senior, remained unbeaten Beattie, a Burrell junior.
Kuhn, who needed a last-second reversal to top Beattie in mid- December, avoided late-match drama in the WCCA title bout, as he scored a reversal and a two-point nearfall on his way to a 5-1 win.
“I felt like that was probably the best match I've wrestle against him,” said Kuhn, who became a three-time champion. “I wrestled way smarter than I ever have in the past against him. I felt like I was in control the whole match.”
Added Beattie: “He tossed me straight to my back, and my game plan kind of ended there.”
Kiski Area's other title came from sophomore 195-pounder Tyler Worthing, who beat Valley senior Marcus Davenport, 10-5, after building a 5-0 lead early in the second period.
“I need to keep scoring,” Worthing said. “I just want to grow as a wrestler. I've just got to get better at that if I'm going to be good in March.”
Said Davenport: “He was quick, so when I shot on him, there was a lot of power there, and his power basically beat my speed. … I know that when I get up to the bigger levels, that's how people will be wrestling. So I needed that; I needed all that.”
Kiski Area took second in the team standings after putting five wrestlers in the finals. Junior Dakota Lange (170 pounds) and sophomore Chad Kuhn (220) joined Hardaway as second-place finishers for the Cavaliers, who edged third-place Latrobe, 187.5 to 186.5.
Paced by six champions, Franklin Regional took the team crown with 290.5 points.
“It makes me proud to be a part of a team that's in a county that's stuffed with this much talent,” said Kiski Area assistant Chris Heater, who filled in for coach Chuck Tursky, who continues to recover from a mid-December surgery. “Our first match in the (Section 1-AAA) team playoffs will be against Latrobe, and all this tournament proves is that it's going to be tight. It's all going to be about matching wins and who can minimize the bonus versus who can get a little bit more.”
Burrell placed sixth in the team standings, the best spot of any Class AA team. But for the first time since 2005, the Bucs lacked a champion.
For a third straight year, a Franklin Regional wrestler snuffed Burrell senior Steven Edward's WCCA title hopes. Edwards, a three-time finalist, lost, 6-4, to the Panthers' Josh Shields, a three-time champ who also won when the two met in the WCCA finals in 2012.
Valley finished ninth in the team standings but second among the Class AA programs.