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Southmoreland's Griffiths turns table on rival at regionals

| Sunday, March 2, 2014, 7:33 p.m.

JOHNSTOWN — During the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional Championship's Parade of Champions on Saturday evening, three WPIAL champs — Jefferson-Morgan's John Demaske, South Park's Jake Wentzel and Burrell's Al Beattie — stood among the 14 wrestlers lined up shoulder to shoulder on one side of the center mat inside Johnstown's Cambria County War Memorial.

On the other side of the mat were the respective WPIAL silver medalists: Valley's Pat Dewitt, Jefferson-Morgan's Jason Miller and Southmoreland's Jake Beistel.

Only Burgettstown's Austin McDermitt, the WPIAL 113-pound champ, and Southmoreland's Austin Griffiths, the 113 runner-up, broke the pattern.

That turned out to be a prophetic coincidence.

In four regional title bouts that pitted WPIAL finalists against each other for the second time in eight days, only Griffiths reversed the outcome as he defeated McDermitt, 7-1, to avenge a 6-0 loss.

“I see him every year, about five times,” said Griffiths, who also lost to McDermitt in the 2013 WPIAL finals, then won a rematch in the regional tournament's third-place bout. “I think I just wrestled harder (Saturday night). The last time, I kind of gave up takedowns I could've had, or I let him dictate what would happen.”

Demaske (126), Wentzel (138) and Beattie (285) claimed Southwest Regional titles, while Dewitt, Miller and Beistel placed second. Demaske won 4-2, Wentzel pinned and Beattie won 3-0.

In the WPIAL finals last week, Demaske topped then-unbeaten Dewitt, 6-0.

“I pretty much controlled him last week, but I tore a muscle in my left shoulder or bicep or something, so I took off practice and lifting this whole week,” said Demaske, who improved to 40-0. “So I knew I'd be a little weaker, and I knew it'd be a closer match. I just wanted to do whatever I could to win.”

Wentzel also pinned Miller a week ago.

“We're probably around even on our feet, but top and bottom, that's where I'm best and where I feel most comfortable,” Wentzel (36-1) said. “So on top, if the cradle is there, I'm going to take it.”

Beattie defeated Beistel, 3-1, in overtime at WPIALs.

“I knew the way he was going to wrestle me, so I wanted to capitalize where I could,” said Beattie (40-5), a second-time regional champ. “I don't get tired of wrestling anyone. … He's good, so I know I'll have to see him a couple times.”

Southmoreland's Cole Lambie (106) and Evan Myers (138) were each eliminated in the consolation bracket, as were Mt. Pleasant's Austin Mears (145), Ethan Charlesworth (160) and Josh Lind (220).

“The positive that can be taken from this tournament is that we had a wrestler make it to the second day of the tournament,” Mt. Pleasant coach Mike Long said.

“Austin Mears made it one match away from placing. We are making progress from year to year. Next year we will have the experience to make it to the state tournament. This was an up and down season, but we will focus on the positives and carry those positives into next season.”

The top five finishers in each weight class qualified for the PIAA tournament, which begins Thursday in Hershey.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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