South Allegheny takes 3rd at Section 3-AA wrestling tournament
Kittanning again was a roadblock for South Allegheny wrestling, but this time, the Gladiators were able to bounce back.
South Allegheny took third place at the Section 3-AA tournament by defeating Avonworth, 51-30, after earlier falling to Kittanning in the semifinal for the second straight year, 55-21, on Wednesday at Burrell High School.
The win in the second match is a big boost for the Gladiators, who found themselves in the same position last year but lost to Avonworth, 40-36. This time, South Allegheny beat the Antelopes for the second time this season and claimed a valuable third-place finish.
“It's the first time in the history of the school that we've ever won a section seeding match of any kind,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiGiorgio said. “Hopefully, that positions us better in the (WPIAL) playoffs to actually compete. The last two years, we've finished fourth and faced the No. 2 seed, so I'm hopeful that we can win one in the playoffs this year.”
The Gladiators went back and forth early in the match with Avonworth, but a series of wins by fall helped South Allegheny pull away before forfeits in some of the last weight classes contested made up the final margin.
Justo Hernandez (126), Lukas Gaydos (132), Steven Shriane (152), Carl Lukens (182) and Seth Hitchens (285) all pinned their opponents from Avonworth, with Hitchens earning his 21st victory of the season wrestling up one weight class from his usual 220. Brandon Thompson (220), Alyssa Kennedy (106) and Noah Stoker (120) received forfeit wins in three of the final five weights contested.
“This result was a lot different last year when Avonworth ended up beating us. This year, I told our guys we needed to stay focused, and they did. Every guy came through for me,” DiGiorgio said.
“We had the right draw winning the (coin) toss. That helped us in the match getting our lineup set. I made one mistake sending up the wrong guy, but we already had the match won. I also wanted to see what (Hitchens), who's 21-3, could do against that 285-pounder for them, and he went out there and pinned him.”
The semifinal match was a struggle for the Gladiators against a Kittanning team that reached the WPIAL quarterfinals last year.
South Allegheny pulled out to a 15-4 lead early in the match as Hernandez and Gaydos both received forfeit wins, and Cody Jenkins (138) picked up a 3-1 decision victory with a late takedown.
Kittanning clinched the match by winning the next seven bouts with five pins and a forfeit to their Penn State-bound star Jason Nolf, which gave them an insurmountable 43-15 lead.
“I thought that our boys wrestled really well in that first match,” Kittanning coach Brandon Newill said. “They came out intense, they wrestled hard, and they got done what they needed to do.”
Hitchens scored South Allegheny's remaining six points against Kittanning by receiving a forfeit win at 285.
Defending WPIAL champ Burrell won the Section 3 title by defeating Kittanning, 55-19, in the final. All four teams in the section championship advance to the WPIAL Class AA tournament next week.