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BP's Lazenga ready to face defending champ

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Friday, March 12, 2010

HERSHEY — Bethel Park's Adam Lazenga says he has history on his side entering Friday's heavyweight match with undefeated Evan Craig of Abington Heights.

Even if the details don't completely match up.

Lazenga was only 10 years old when he last wrestled a Craig. And, OK, it wasn't Evan, but instead a younger brother who Lazenga beat, 5-4, during a state tournament. Still, that had to mean something, right?

"That was my only run-in with the Craig family," Lazenga said, with a laugh.

What Lazenga's light-hearted history lesson really showed was that the WPIAL champion won't let this matchup cause him any extra stress. Craig (47-0) is the PIAA's defending 285-pound champion and a national contender in Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling.

"I'm not going to be nervous," said Lazenga (41-1), who reached the second round by beating Susquehannock senior Zach Freet, 3-1, on Thursday during Day 1 of the PIAA Class AAA individual championship at the Giant Center. "He's big. He's all of 285. He's a state champ, a national champ, but I've got nothing to lose. I'm going to try to keep it close and maybe pull it out in the end."

At 230 pounds, Lazenga surrenders 50 pounds to many heavyweight opponents, but the Bethel Park standout was reluctant to drop to 215 pounds because he was determined to play college football and recently committed to play football for Pitt. The linebacker will be a preferred walk-on with the Panthers and will receive academic scholarship money.

"I've dreamed of playing down there since I was little," said Lazenga, who owns Pitt season tickets. "Even if I don't get to play for three or four years, just coming out on that field four years from now will make it all worth it."

Eliminated during the first round was Connellsville's Nate Gaffney, the reigning WPIAL champion and defending PIAA champion. Otherwise, the remaining 13 WPIAL champions all advanced to the second round, including West Allegheny's Aaron McKinney (145 pounds) and Troy Reaghard (160), and Central Catholic teammates Tyler Zymroz (130) and Lorenzo Thomas (140).

"I want to get up on that podium real bad," said McKinney, who scored all three of his points during the final 90 seconds of his 3-2 victory over Spring-Ford junior Kyle Duffy.

McKinney (37-4) has been anticipating a matchup with undefeated Andrew Alton (41-0) of Central Mountain. The two would meet in the championship match, should they both keep winning.

"I'm hoping to get to final," McKinney said, "and get a chance to wrestle Alton."

The three-day championship event continues today with the Class AAA quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals are Saturday. Day 1 drew 12,684 spectators, including 6,909 for the Class AAA afternoon session.




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