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Jeannette freshman performs well at state tournament

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
John Howard | The Jeannette Spirit
Gio Vonne Sanders stands with his supporters during a pep rally held last week before his trip to the state wrestling tournament. From left are Swade Redman, Eric Hall, Tony Mash, Gio Vonne Sanders, Zach Altieri and Joey Soles.

Gio Vonne Sanders was in some very select company last Thursday and Friday at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey.

Sanders was one of only six freshmen who qualified for the tournament in Class AA above weight class 106.

Wrestling at 138 pounds, Sanders represented Jeannette High School as the Southwest Region's five-seed — quite an achievement for a freshman in his weight class.

“I think Gio Vonne should be extremely proud of himself and what he accomplished throughout an amazing freshman season,” said Jeannette wrestling head coach Josh Westfall. “I am excited to get back in the room and start building towards next year.”

Sanders drew a difficult first-round match at the state tournament. The five-seed in the Southwest Region is paired with the one-seed in the Southeast Region, in this case, senior Josh Evans out of Palmerton High School.

Evans won the District 11 Tournament to qualify and entered the match with Sanders at 33-2 on the season. On paper, it looked like a decided advantage for Evans, but then the match began and Sanders showed Evans what he has shown many older wrestlers before — he is a gamer.

Sanders outwrestled Evans in the early part of the match and was close throughout before finally succumbing to the Palmerton star, 4-3. The result may not have been what Sanders wanted, but his tenacity and ability were evident on the mat.

Sanders fell into the loser's bracket but remained in contention for a medal. He wrestled well in his second match with senior Trevor McWhorter of Williamson, but ultimately lost an 11-7 decision.

The experience should serve Sanders well as he moves into his sophomore season at Jeannette in 2014-15. Westfall believes he has the makeup of a future champion.

“With his positive attitude and willingness to leave everything on the mat, his ceiling is very high.”

Dave Moio is a freelance writer.

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