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Gateway wrestlers gearing up for Section 1-AAA tournament

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Gateway varsity wrestling team split a pair of nonsection matches last week, beating Elizabeth Forward, 44-14, on Feb. 11 and losing to Pine-Richland, 45-22, on Friday at the Furrie Sports Complex.

The Gators return to action at home on Saturday, and this time, a lot more will be on the line.

Gateway join the 11 other teams from Section 1 in tournament action that begins at 9:30 a.m. and continues into the evening.

The top five finishers in each weight class will advance to the WPIAL/Southwest Regional AAA tournament at Canon-McMillan from Feb. 27 to March 1.

“The guys are excited to be home and have one more chance to wrestling in front of their home fans,” Gateway head coach R.J. Santilli said.

“We have a chance for some top-five finishes if we wrestle well. The section is really loaded. It will be a good challenge for all of them, but they're ready.”

Five Gateway wrestlers advanced to WPIALs from last year's Section 1 tournament, and two — senior Cody Pawlowski and junior Jalen Key — are back with hopes of qualifying again.

Pawlowski and Key took fifth at 195 and 138, respectively, in 2013.

Pawlowski, who owns a 20-9 record, returns to 195 this year, while Key, 17-11 overall, is back at 138.

Senior Thaer Shouman, 19-10 overall at 126, just missed qualifying for WPIALs last year as he placed sixth at sections at 120 with a 5-3 loss to Norwin's Jake Freidhof.

Shouman is riding some momentum after a 12-0 major-decision victory in his 126-pound bout in Gateway's loss to Pine-Richland.

Senior Austin Davidson (170), in his final section tournament of his varsity career, is hoping to qualify for WPIALs after a disappointing finish to his junior season at sections last year.

Davidson was seeded third at 170 last year and was in position to finish in the top five.

But an injury forced him to default from the tournament in the consolation bracket, just shy of a chance to wrestle in the third-place or fifth-place match.

Davidson is 26-5 this season, and he is riding a nine-bout winning streak since his last loss, an 11-6 decision setback to Byron Minous from Thomas Jefferson in the 170-pound third-place bout at the Allegheny County Tournament.

Davidson scored a 4-0 win over Pine-Richland's Michael Geyer on Friday.

It was his second win over Geyer this season.

Geyer, a junior, enters the Section 3-AAA tournament Saturday 21-9 overall.

Davidson carries an overall four-year varsity record of 75-49.

Sophomore Brandon Toomey, 13-11 at 106; freshman Mason Boehm, 16-10 at 113; sophomore Justin Smith, 4-11 at 120; junior Justin Leone, 21-8 at 132; sophomore Nick Conti, 11-11 at 160; senior Zac Bell, 9-16 at 182; and sophomore Nate Bailey-Gage, 5-16 at 220, also will be in action Saturday.

Junior Tony DeFazio, 6-11 at 152, has been battling injury the past several weeks, and, Santilli said earlier this week, DeFazio will try to give it a go on Saturday.

Boehm (113), Conti (160) and Bailey (220) will wrestle at sections for the first time.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825, at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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