Southmoreland earns trip to WPIAL tournament
When Ryan Shaw became the Southmoreland wrestling coach prior to the start of last season, he set of goal of helping the Scotties reach the WPIAL Class AA team tournament within two seasons.
On Wednesday, the Scotties helped their coach reach that goal.
Southmoreland advanced to next week's WPIAL team playoffs thanks to a 41-37 victory over visiting West Greene in a Section 2-AA playoff match that determined the fifth and final WPIAL playoff seed from the section.
“I felt good with the guys and the way they worked this week,” Shaw said, noting that advancing to the WPIAL playoffs is a necessary step if the program hopes to be a perennial contender. “This is a step in the right direction. We want to get the kids matches in the postseason, and with a young team, that's important.”
It is unknown who the Scotties will match up against in the first round of the team tournament, but all indications suggest it will be one of the top-ranked teams in Class AA.
“They are excited and this will pay dividends for years to come,” Shaw said.
Unfortunately, neither team came into the match at full strength as evidenced by the amount of forfeits surrendered on both sides of the mat.
The Scotties had to give up forfeits at 182 and 220 pounds. Southmoreland was without the services of Jacob Beistel (skin irritation) and Brenden Hernley (chest). However, the Pioneers were in an even tougher predicament.
West Greene coach Kory Bissett noted several of his starters were out as well, and the Pioneers had to forfeit four matches.
“It was a tough match and both teams are beat up,” Bissett said. “Forfeits are what killed us. We gave up 24 points, and that's hard to recover from.”
The match started at 170 and stayed close throughout. Southmoreland's Brennan Coles (170) and West Greene's Dalton Wildman (182) exchanged forfeit wins to start the match. However, the Pioneers (2-6, 2-4) took a 24-6 lead on pins by Jeffrey Isiminger (195) and Jeremy Coffman (285), which were sandwiched around a forfeit victory for Will VanNorman (220).
But it didn't take long for the Scotties (3-3, 3-3) to even the match as a quick first-period pin by Cole Lambie (106) was followed by back-to-back forfeit wins for Tyler Lynch (113) and Austin Griffiths (120).
West Greene's Sheldon Phillips (126) gave the Pioneers a 30-24 lead thanks to a pin. But Southmoreland's Zach Bixler came up big as he shouldered Kolton Richter early in the second period of the 132-pound bout to tie the match, 30-30.
According to Shaw, Zach Bixler's match was the turning point.
“The hero of the night is Zach Bixler,” Shaw said. “Getting that fall was huge. It's what decided the match and we owe him the credit.”
The Scotties took their first lead when Evan Myers (138) won on a technical fall. The Pioneers regained the advantage when Doug Berdine (145) and Donovan Weaver (152) won on a decision and major decision, respectively.
But with the Scotties trailing, 37-35 and one bout remaining, Austin Bixler (160) went to the mat and received a forfeit to clinch the victory.
While Southmoreland has earned the right to compete in the WPIAL tournament, the Pioneers will try to regroup in time for the upcoming individual tournaments. And even though his team came up short, Bissett considers the match somewhat of a success.
“Every match is experience and the more experience we get, the better,” Bissett said. “We just have to keep our heads up and take the positives out of it.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.