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South Allegheny's Hitchens focuses on his goal

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.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014, 12:33 a.m.

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 or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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