South Allegheny wrestler brings his 'chip' to Hershey
Now the goal has shifted to the PIAA wrestling podium for South Allegheny junior Seth Hitchens.
A state championship probably isn't within his grasp, though.
“We're both realistic,” South Allegheny coach Tony DiGiorgio said. “We don't expect him this year to be a state champion. He believes he can place. That's a realistic goal.”
There appear to be too many obstacles at 220 pounds for Hitchens to come out on top in the Class AA bracket at the PIAA Championships at Hershey's Giant Center, most notably Southwest Regional champion Jake Temple (39-0) of Avella.
And then there's Jacob Robb of Kittanning, who won a 4-2 decision over Hitchens in the third-place match last weekend at the regionals in Johnstown.
“That kid (Robb) pinned Seth in the section finals, but that just shows you the determination Seth has,” DiGiorgio said. “He went into that match saying there's no way that was going to happen again. Seth is a grinder.”
Hitchens (36-9) will open the state tournament Thursday against Reynolds freshman Cole Rickert (30-7), the Northwest Region champion.
“I like his draw in the first round,” DiGiorgio said of the matchup with Rickert. “It's a freshman, and when you get a freshman, it can be overwhelming for him. Just ask Seth.
“Whenever I was a freshman, this was like nothing I'd ever seen before,” Hitchens said of the postseason.
Added DiGiorgio: “I believe his experience might help in this match.”
Joining Hitchens in Hershey are Yough 220-pounder Tom Sever in Class AA and Norwin sophomore Drew Phipps, the Class AAA Southwest Regional runner-up at 195.
Sever (35-9), a junior who finished fifth in the Southwest Region, faces junior Andrew Dunn (38-4) of Bethlehem Catholic, the Southeast Region champion, in the first round, while Phipps (23-1) opens against Bethlehem Liberty senior Orlando Miller (34-11), the Northeast Region runner-up.
Hitchens and Sever will be making their first state tournament appearances, while Phipps went 1-2 last year as a 182-pound freshman.
Hitchens nearly qualified last season out of the Southwest Region as the WPIAL's sixth-seeded wrestler at 195 pounds, losing to then-senior Maverick Swartz of Penns Valley, 9-4, in the fifth-place consolation bracket.
As a freshman, he rebounded from a 0-8 start to reach the .500 mark before going 0-2 in the Southwest Regional.
“Seth is in a good spot in my heart,” DiGiorgio said. “He is willing to learn anything. He's willing to put the extra time in to get that done. He's a junior, which is very encouraging, because he has another year left.
“He's got a chip on his shoulder, but I think he likes the underdog role because it takes the pressure off him. Instead of other guys being in his way, he's looking at it like he's one of those guys who's in their way.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.