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Ringgold excels, Gavazzi is out at Tri-County

| Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
Ringgold's Gage Downer picks up one of his two pins on the first day of the Tri-County Coaches Association Tournament, this one against Mapletown's Tyler Rumble, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
Rich Downer | For The Valley Independent
Ringgold's Gage Downer picks up one of his two pins on the first day of the Tri-County Coaches Association Tournament, this one against Mapletown's Tyler Rumble, on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.

Six Ringgold wrestlers felt right at home Friday during the 2014 Tri-County Tournament at Ringgold High School.

Sophomore Doug Gudenburr (113 pounds), juniors Gage Downer (138) and Taylor Bass (285); and seniors Kenny Tarpley (132), Brandon Heinzelman (152), Devin Fallenstein (170) all advanced to the tournament semifinals, which begin at 10:30 a.m. today.

Of note, Charleroi's Nick Gavazzi, who was seeded No. 1 in the 145-pound bracket, did not compete Friday due to injury.

There was no further information available on Gavazzi's status.

Beth-Center sophomore Tony Welsh took Gavazzi's place as the top seed and is in the semifinals.

Fallenstein and Bass entered the tournament as top seeds in their respective brackets and received first-round byes. In the quarterfinals, Fallenstein worked a 15-5 major decision over Beth-Center's Nico Brown while Bass pinned Dylan Groh of Laurel Highlands.

Respectively, they will face off against No. 4 seeds Shawn Carl of Avella and Zach Brown of Mapletown.

A quartet of Bentworth grapplers also reached the semifinal round: Hunter Neely (106), Jake Rothka (120), Matt Vickless (132), and Mason Shumaker (285).

Westmoreland County Coaches Meet

If people don't who Belle Vennon Area freshman Jarod Verkleeren is, they will know who in the coming weeks.

A shoulder injury in June prevented the talented Verkleeren from competing until this week. His coach, Tyler Nauman, said he was cleared to participate until this week.

But after one practice, a win Thursday night and two wins Friday during Day 1 of the 61st Annual Westmoreland County Coaches' Association wrestling tournament at Franklin Regional, Verkleeren finds himself in today's semifinals at 145 pounds against another talented freshman, Latrobe's Ethan Smith.

Both Verkleeren and Smith took out seeded wrestlers in the quarterfinals. Verkleeren beat second seed Austin Mears of Mt. Pleasant, 10-4, and Smith toppled third seed Zach Mattucci of Greensburg Salem, 9-4.

Action resumes today with the consolations at 9 a.m. The semifinals are set for noon, the consolation finals at 5:30 p.m. and finals at 7.

Nauman said Verkleeren's return is a boost to his team. Verkleeren is a two-tome Junior Olympic state champion.

“I didn't know how good he'd be,” Nauman said. “I didn't know what to expect. He just cleared for practice this week. He pushed the pace and stayed in good position and he's a smart wrestler.”

Franklin Regional advanced nine to the semifinals and leads the team standings with 105 points. Kiski Area is second with 86 points and eight in the semifinals, Latrobe is third with seven in the semifinals and 83.5 points, while BVA is fourth with five in the semifinals and 70 team points.

Also advancing to the semifinals for BVA were Mitchell Hartman (126), Derek Verkleeren (152), Austin Bell (160) and Milton Kobaly (170).

Hartman won two matches. He pinned Mt. Pleasant's Shawn Prinkey and then edged Latrobe's Joel Cawoski, 3-2. Jarod Verkleeren opened with a pin of Valley's Paul Escribano.

Jarod's brother Derek Verkleeren easily defeated Noah Kankoski of Valley, 17-4, and Kiski Area's Jake Ardellitz, 9-1; Bell pinned Derry Area's Jarrett Dorazio; and Kaboly pinned both Jake Kramer of Norwin and Nathan Trottier of Ligonier Valley.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staffwriter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2635 or Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at

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