North Allegheny's Woodley defends PIAA title
North Allegheny senior wrestler Jake Woodley cut General McLane's Ethan Laird loose to open the third period of their 195-pound PIAA Class AAA title bout March 11 at Hershey's Giant Center.
There would be no coasting to a second crown for Woodley. On his way to a 3-1 win, he conceded a point to open the third round.
“I wanted to get another takedown,” said Woodley, who is an Oklahoma recruit. “I cut him right away. I didn't want to be defensive for a whole two minutes. … I was trying to get a takedown to seal the match. It wasn't until there was 30 seconds left until I relaxed.”
There weren't a lot of breaks for Woodley during the state tournament. He blazed through states, collecting two technical falls and a major decision on his way to the finals.
Woodley, who finished the season 50-2 and is ranked third nationally by InterMat, helped North Allegheny place fourth in the team standings. Eric Hong (160) and Jake Hinkson (145) placed third and fourth, respectively, for the Tigers..
Woodley, who became North Allegheny's first state champion since 2009 by winning at 182 pounds last season, was more dominant in his return trip.
“He seems to have another level,” Tigers assistant coach Dan Heckert said. “He pushes right from the get-go and there's no relaxing. There's relentless pursuit. That's what he does with a lot of guys, he breaks them down. After he takes guys down, he's cutting them and going right back after them.”
Becoming a terminator with takedowns required taking lumps. Woodley finished .500 as a freshman and didn't qualify for states after losing in the blood rounds at WPIALs as a sophomore.
During his senior season, Woodley benefited from North Allegheny's challenging schedule. At the Beat of the East Tournament, Woodley picked up a revenge win from last season by beating DePaul (N.J.) High School's Brandon Kui, 3-2, in the semifinals. He then lost to Sherando (Md.) High School's John Borst, 3-2, who is ranked fourth nationally.
“It's good to get those matches in,” said Woodley, who finished his career 147-42. “If I didn't have any close matches, I might panic in the state title match. I want to get to the next level and wrestle the best kids.”
Woodley found the best matches.
He wrestled his style and completed his transformation with a second state crown.
“That's more of a bigger thing these kids can take away,” Heckert said. “You can make great leaps from year-to-year. You don't have to be a world-class wrestler at the start of it. If you work hard and get yourself to the next level, it doesn't matter where you come from; it matters where you go.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.