Charleroi freshman wins 43rd Powerade tourney title
A Charleroi High School freshman earned the top honor at the 43rd annual Powerade High School Wrestling Tournament held Dec. 29-30 in Canon-McMillan's gymnasium in Canonsburg.
The Cougars' Cody Wiercioch thrilled the capacity crowd by winning the 152-pound title and was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler.
Wiercioch improved to 12-0 overall on the season and capped his championship run when he reversed top-seeded Pierce Harger of Cincinnati-Moeller High School with 12 seconds remaining for a 2-1 victory in the finals.
Unseeded, the freshman advanced to the finals with a 2-0 semifinal decision over second-seeded Travis McKillop of Burrell after a 3-2 victory over Christiansburg's (Va.) Rich Eva.
Wiercioch began the tournament with a win by fall over Connellsville's Mike Aumer and 9-0 decision over Canon-McMillan's Colin Ryan. He advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-5 victory over West Allegheny's Aaron McKinney.
Wiercioch becomes Charleroi's first Powerade individual champion since Fred Vanderveen captured the heavyweight championship in 1969.
"When you look at the quality of the field with several repeat champions for them to be selected as the outstanding wrestler is quite an accomplishment," said tournament director and 1980 Powerade 185-pound titlist Frank Vulcano Jr. "The kid showed a lot of poise for a freshman in several tight matches and certainly won the crowd over."
Backing up Vulcano's words were many noteworthy individual achievements including Central Dauphin's Marshall Peppelman winning the 160-pound title to become only the second wrestler in tournament history to win four individual championships. The first was North Allegheny's Ty Moore (1986-89).
Winning their third Powerade titles at the 2009 event were 140-pound Josh Kindig of Blue Mountain and 119-pound Franklin Regional's Nico Megaludis.
Connellsville's Nate Gaffney won the 215-pound title with a win by fall of Canon-McMillan's Cody Klempay in the finals.
The top seed and a 2008 PIAA state champion, Gaffney pinned Latrobe's Tyler DiLorenzo after receiving an opening round bye. After another pin over Hempfield's Dante Nania in the quarterfinals, Gaffney reached the finals with an 8-0 semifinal decision over Central Dauphin's Kyle Wolfe.
Earning second-place honors for the Falcons was Jesse Swink at 145 pounds.
Seeded sixth, Swink defeated State College's Chris Barksdale, Solon's (Ohio) Devin Orr, Corry's Jake Kondrlik and second-seeded Dave Demor of South Side Beaver before losing a 4-2 overtime decision to Kissimmee Osceola's (Fla.) Gabriel Bird.
Teammates Ethan Kenney, Ethan Saylor and Travis Miller earned third, fifth and seventh place finished at the 103, 160 and heavyweight classes respectively. The strong individual showings enabled Connellsville to place an impressive fourth in the team standings with 144 total points. The Falcons, who along with Chartiers-Houston have won a tourney most seven team titles, finished the highest among all WPIAL teams in 2009. Connellsville placed fifth in 2007 and 15th in 2008.
"Connellsville had a nice run and showed why they have consistently been one of the top programs in the state," Vulcano said.
Albert Gallatin's John Phillips placed eighth at heavyweight. Central Dauphin won the team title for the third straight season with 177 points and joins Mount Carmel (1992-94) and Chartiers-Houston (1972-74) as the only schools to win three straight team titles.
The Bulls' team title last month also marked the tenth straight year a school not from the WPIAL won the Powerade team championship. The last WPIAL team to win was Connellsville Area in 1999.
Preceding Central Dauphin as recent non-WPIAL Powerade team champions were Christiansburg of Virginia (2006) Cincinnati-Moeller (2005), Mt. St. Joseph of Maryland (2004), Walsh Jesuit of Ohio (2003 & 2002), State College (2001), and St. Edwards Academy of Ohio (2000).
Charleroi placed 30th while Albert Gallatin was 33rd.