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South Allegheny's Hitchens focuses on his goal

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 12:33 a.m.
Eric Schmadel | For the Tribune-Review
Yough junior Tom Sever struggles with Avella senior Jake Temple during their 195-pound PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional Wrestling Tournament quarterfinal bout Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown.

When South Allegheny junior Seth Hitchens studied the results from his weight class Friday night at the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional championships, he noticed a few familiar names surrounding his in the semifinals.

Hitchens, a 220-pounder, is one of three WPIAL wrestlers to reach the semifinals, which begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown.

The South Allegheny junior (35-7) will start his Saturday against No. 1 seed and defending regional champ Jake Temple (37-0) of Avella, who claimed the WPIAL title last week.

“This year, all I've wanted to do is stay focused and make it to states,” said Hitchens, who placed fourth in the WPIAL.

A top-five finish will earn Hitchens a spot in the PIAA championships at Hershey. He's realistic about his chances against Temple, an opponent he last met two seasons ago.

“I assume a lot has changed since then,” he deadpanned.

What Hitchens also understands is he needs just one win Saturday to ensure himself a first-time trip to Hershey. He said he believes the pressure of the setting and scenario won't cause him to unravel if he falls to the consolation bracket.

“Whenever I was a freshman, this was like nothing I'd ever seen before,” said Hitchens, a third-time regional qualifier. “Now I'm getting used to it.”

Gladiators sophomore 113-pounder Noah Stoker and junior 120-pounder Justo Hernandez remain alive in consolation brackets.

And for Yough, senior 170-pounder Lucas Richardson and junior 220-pounder Tom Sever still have shots at third place.

Four WPIAL wrestlers, including Avella's Temple, remained unbeaten on their way to semifinal berths.

Kittanning senior 145-pounder Jason Nolf (38-0), one of the Wildcats' two semifinalists, will try to become the fifth wrestler in PIAA Class AA history to claim four Southwest Region titles.

Senior 126-pounder John Demaske (38-0) is one of Jefferson-Morgan's three semifinalists.

Sophomore 132-pounder Mike Carr (38-0) is one of South Fayette's three semifinalists.

Three weight classes — 138, 152, 220 — include three semifinalists from the WPIAL.

“(District 5 and 6 wrestlers don't regularly wrestle the same caliber of kids out there that we're wrestling back home,” said Highlands' Nolan Wise, a semifinalist at 152, “so you've got to keep that in mind when you're going out there against someone with a really good records.”

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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