Belle Vernon Area's Hasson advances; teammates eliminated
HERSHEY — Belle Vernon Area senior 120-pounder Brendan Hasson sat back Friday and watched two teammates — freshman 145-pounder Jarod Verkleeren and sophomore 160-pounder Austin Bell — compete in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AAA individual championships while he waited for his second-round consolation bout to arrive.
Hasson had no idea his inactivity and spot in the losers' bracket might spare him the kind of heartbreak his younger cohorts endured.
While the senior won his consolation bout to guarantee himself a spot on the medal stand, Verkleeren and Bell lost back-to-back matches to go from quarterfinalists to also-rans.
“I felt I kind of had an edge, because I already lost my match,” said Hasson (36-9), who beat South Western sophomore Owen Wherley, 3-2, in the second-round consolation bout. “I wasn't coming down into a match off a loss, where my head would be all messed up. I was coming in with win, and I feel like that gave me a little bit of confidence coming into today.”
Hasson is certain to finish in the top eight. He will wrestle Garnet Valley senior Mike Marino (38-8) in the consolation quarterfinals.
“I've been dreaming about being on the stand at states since I started wrestling, and I started in fourth grade, which was right around the time the Tassers were in high school,” Hasson said. “I got to come to Hershey my second year of wrestling ever, and I saw that, and I just always dreamed of being on the podium.”
Verkleeren (21-6), who won his first-round bout by forfeit Thursday, dropped a 1-0 decision to Cedar Cliff senior Max Good in the quarterfinals. He then lost, 5-4, to Wyoming Valley West senior Nathan Cheek in consolation action.
Bell (39-7) lost to Carlisle senior Ian Shannon, 5-4, in the quarterfinals. In his consolation bout, Bell, the WPIAL champ, squared off with the WPIAL's third-place finisher, Latrobe senior Dom Scalise, and held a considerable lead until late in the bout, which he ultimately lost, 6-5.
Scalise, trailing 5-1 with 15 seconds left, bear-hugged and then threw Bell to score a takedown and get a three-point nearfall.
“We finally get to see (Scalise), and we've got the match with 12 seconds left — he just had to stay out of the throw,” Belle Vernon coach Tyler Nauman said. “(Bell) is young. Give (Scalise) a takedown. Give him a stall point. Something. So it's a learning experience, but it's still a tough one to swallow.”
Nauman suspects both Bell and Verkleeren will benefit in seasons to come from what they endured Friday. And they can share their wisdom with others, as Hasson is the team's only senior.
“Being here and being a part of this, it's going to go a long way for them,” Nauman said. “They've been in this building now, so when they make it back, those first-time nerves are gone. And hopefully they can help our other guys because next year we have a good shot at putting more here. We brought some of those guys with us so they could feel the environment.”