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Streak intact for Butler wrestlers

| Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, 3:45 p.m.
Butler head wrestling coach Scott Stoner watches a bout as his team takes on North Allegheny on Jan. 14, 2015. Stoner's team returned to the WPIAL team playoffs again this season.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Butler head wrestling coach Scott Stoner watches a bout as his team takes on North Allegheny on Jan. 14, 2015. Stoner's team returned to the WPIAL team playoffs again this season.

The tradition continues for the Butler wrestling team.

The Golden Tornado advanced to the WPIAL team playoffs for the eighth year in a row this season. But it required a strong late-season effort to get there.

After Butler fell to Section 3 power North Allegheny, the team responded with wins over Seneca Valley and Knoch. The Golden Tornado earned a berth in the WPIAL tournament with a 33-21 triumph over Hampton.

“After losing an early section match to Pine-Richland, we knew our backs were against the wall with a strong NA team,” Butler coach Scott Stoner said. “We have a lot of young kids mixed in with a couple seniors here and there, and they're still trying to find some consistency. We had a good performance against Seneca Valley, and it started coming together a little bit.”

Butler overcame an 18-0 deficit to defeat the Talbots to earn the section's No. 5 playoff seed.

“That was probably our best match all year. We came out and had the most consistency in that match,” Stoner said. “We won that match without a single pin, and that's a strange thing. What might even be stranger is that we only had three sets of back points. But we were able to win against a strong team with some tough kids who are well coached.”

The Golden Tornado played host to Trinity in a WPIAL preliminary round match and produced a 45-25 victory. Caleb Baxter, Jeremiah Bortmas, Donovan Malovich and Hank Finan all had pins in that triumph. Connor Foust, Scott Dietrich and Nick Roth won by decision, and Tom Greaves and Justin Johnson won by forfeit.

“They had a couple guys injured, and they gave us a couple forfeits,” Stoner said. “Here's the thing about making it as a fifth-place team. It's a bittersweet thing because you get that pigtail match and get a team like Trinity you can compete against. As a thank you, you get sent to Franklin Regional.”

Butler faced the Panthers last season and dropped a 64-6 decision in the WPIAL quarterfinals. Franklin Regional went on to claim WPIAL and PIAA titles.

It was a similar fate this year for the Golden Tornado; they dropped a 65-6 decision to the Panthers, who claimed WPIAL gold again. Seth McCrea earned a pin for Butler.

“I think Franklin Regional is even more balanced than last year. They were pretty good all the way up. We hung in there against a couple of their kids. A lot of good teams are not going to be able to get past them,” Stoner said. “Going down there and losing to a team like that, there is no shame in it because they are so well prepared and worked so hard.

“It is important to go down and wrestle those kinds of teams. We want to takes some positives out of it. That gives you invaluable experience.”

The Golden Tornado turn their attention to the upcoming individual tournaments, but Stoner was glad to see his team step up to reach the team tournament again.

“That is the goal, as a coach, you always want your name to be associated with. Every team goes up and down — even powers like NA, Kiski, Connellsville and Canon-Mac,” Stoner said. “Franklin Regional is up there now, and you always want your name up there and associated with those teams. Wrestling is very young here, in the large scheme and compared to some of those other top programs. We don't have that tradition, so it's good to get there and be associated with those teams.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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