Burrell sends 7 wrestlers into WPIAL semifinals, Nolf nears 4th title
J.R. Andrejcik's stomach grumbles on a daily basis, desperate for food to nourish a body that the Burrell senior cannot allow to weigh much more than 132 pounds.
That hunger is one Andrejcik must continue this weekend and for the next few weeks as he tries to satisfy a more important one: His hunger for gold medals.
With two wins Friday night at Chartiers Valley, Andrejcik kept himself in the running for a title in the WPIAL Class AA Wrestling Championships. He'll wrestle top-seeded South Fayette sophomore Mike Carr (35-0) in the semifinals, which begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Two losses to Carr earlier this winter — one in the WPIAL team finals and one at the Bedford Tournament — have contributed to Andrejcik's frustration with his senior season.
“I don't want to make excuses, but I feel like I'm at the wrong weight class this year,” said Andrejcik (24-13), who placed third in the WPIAL at 132 as a junior and chose to compete at the weight again this season. “I'm sucking too much weight, and it's killed me all year. Just not enough energy coming into matches.”
He conjured enough energy to rally for a win in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Trailing No. 4 seed Teddy Charletta, a Yough senior, through two periods, Andrejcik pinned Charletta in the bout's final minute.
“Right now, I'm taking it one step at a time,” Andrejcik said. “My No. 1 goal all year is to win WPIALs. Today, I was feeling a little bad because of my weight and stuff. I've been having weight problems all year. I got through tonight, so I'm going to come back fresh tomorrow and get my rematch with Carr.”
Burrell has a tournament-high seven wrestlers in the semifinals. Among the Bucs in title contention is senior 160-pounder Derrick Beattie (32-12), who placed third at 170 pounds as a sophomore and missed his entire junior season while recovering from a torn labrum and damaged rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
“My body, it's holding up,” said Beattie, a No. 3 seed. “(This tournament) is a grind I'm embracing right now. It's hard, but it's fun. My confidence, it's increasing every time I step out on the mat now.”
Highlands senior 152-pounder Nolan Wise knows the feeling.
Wise (29-6), who placed fifth at 138 a season ago, is in the semifinals for a second straight season after upsetting No. 3 seed Jason Stay of Beth-Center. One year after falling to an undefeated No. 1 seed in the semifinals, Wise again finds himself something of an underdog as he takes on South Fayette senior Grant Fetchet (36-2), the No. 2 seed.
“I feel like I am the underdog, but in this weight class, there are so many of us are so close, I don't think there's a lot that separates us,” Wise said. “I think last year, I was a little intimidated — (Charleroi's Nick) Gavazzi, he was undefeated. But I gave him a match. So Fetchet, he's beatable like anyone else, so I'm going to go out there and give him everything I got.”
Another Alle-Kiski Valley wrestler on the cusp of a career-changing win is Valley senior 195-pounder Marcus Davenport (29-3). A sixth-place finisher as a junior and a seventh-place finisher as a sophomore, he's a No. 2 seed and in the WPIAL semifinals for the first time after pinning his two opponents.
“I expected this, and all of my teammates and coaches expected this,” Davenport said. “It took me long enough to get here.”
Fellow Vikings senior Patrick Dewitt (35-0), the No. 2 seed at 126, is one of eight returning champions poised to place atop the podium again. Kittanning senior 145-pounder Jason Nolf, a Penn State recruit, can become the 23rd wrestler in WPIAL history to win four championships with two more victories. South Fayette junior 160-pounder J.J. Walker can claim his third title. Burgettstown junior 113-pounder Austin McDermitt, Derry Area sophomore 120-pounder George Phillippi, South Park sophomore 152-pounder Greg Bulsak, Avella senior 220-pounder Jake Temple and Burrell junior 285-pounder Al Beattie all are still in the hunt for title No. 2.
Carr, Nolf, Dewitt, Temple and Jefferson-Morgan senior 126-pounder John Demaske are the only unbeaten wrestlers left in WPIAL Class AA.