Class AA Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant grapplers one step from states
It's been a long and grueling season for the Class AA wrestlers still competing. The relentless challenges don't get easier, but there is an end in sight.
On Friday and Saturday, the best wrestlers from the area will meet at Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown for the PIAA Southwest Regional Tournament, with a trip to the state championships on the line. Preliminary-round bouts begin at 1 p.m. Friday.
Southmoreland and Mt. Pleasant will each be sending four wrestlers to the competition. The top five finishers in each weight class will advance to the PIAA Championships March 6-8 at Giant Center in Hershey.
“It's the toughest regional tournament in the state, so if you place there, you deserve it,” Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Long said.
Long will be taking sophomores Mike Novak (126 pounds, 20 wins, 7 losses) and Josh Lind (220, 30-11) as well as juniors Austin Mears (145, 26-9) and Ethan Charlesworth (160, 31-10) to regionals. Novak, Charlesworth and Lind finished third at the WPIAL Championships and Mears finished fourth. Novak's participation in the tournament is questionable due to concussion-like symptoms.
Southmoreland will send sophomores Cole Lambie (106, 33-8), Evan Myers (132, 29-11) and Jake Beistel (heavyweight, 32-3) and junior Austin Griffiths (113, 30-3). Griffiths, Myers and Beistel were runners-up at WPIALs, and Lambie finished in third place.
According to Southmoreland coach Ryan Shaw, there is hope for another strong performance from all of his wrestlers.
“The boys are talking about taking all four to states,” Shaw said. “They are a family and they push each other. If they wrestle well, I could see all four there (at states), and I feel good about this weekend.”
Griffiths, Myers and Beistel each competed at the regional tournament last year, and Griffiths (third at 106) and Beistel (fifth at heavyweight) each advanced to states, with Griffiths taking fifth in the 2013 PIAA Championships.
“Three of our four wrestlers have already been to this stage, and two of the four have already tasted that success,” Shaw said. “What's nice is those two guys are really pushing Evan and Cole.”
Myers is excited to have another shot at qualifying for the state tournament.
“It feels good,” he said. “I'm confident that if I just wrestle to my abilities, I'll go to states. I can't take anybody lightly because everybody is good.”
Mears, Charlesworth and Lind also competed at the regional tournament last year, but none advanced to states. Long believes this year can be a different story.
“They all have a good chance to go,” Long said, noting that if any of his wrestlers qualify for the state tournament, it would be the first time in his three years as coach of the Vikings. “We just have to be more consistent and make less mistakes because everyone at this level is good.”
Lind believe maintaining the momentum gained from the WPIAL Championships will be key.
“We just want to keep doing what we are doing,” he said. “We wrestled well at WPIALs, so we want to do the same thing.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at email@example.com.