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Sports

Kittanning senior takes 6th at PIAAs for second straight year

| Monday, March 13, 2006

HERSHEY - As a hobby, Kittanning senior wrestler Josh Serene enjoys doing short, independent films after school.

"I like to direct them, mostly, but sometimes I act in them," he said. "We do action, some dramas. It's fun."

Serene was hoping to write a different script to his state championship sequel. But the ending was the same as the original.

Just like last year, Serene advanced to the PIAA Class AAA semifinals, but three straight losses - the only ones on his 35-3 record this season - dropped him to a sixth-place finish in the 171-pound bracket over the weekend at Hershey's Giant Center.

Serene was in position to make the finals, but lost 9-7 in overtime against Nazareth junior Dave Crowell in the semis. He lost two more times on the final day of high school wrestling's answer to March Madness.

"It's not the end of the world," Serene said. "I mean, I think if I wrestled that kid (Crowell) 10 times, I win nine of them. I hate to sound cocky, but I still believe I'm the best wrestler here. Failure makes people better."

The state tournament started with 448 entries from across Pennsylvania. Only 28 won titles. In a grueling struggle to stave off elimination, competitors -- all of whom sacrifice meals, free time and the urge to give up for months prior to the state tournament -- do whatever it takes to wrestle another match and earn a medal.

Serene found out just how tough the PIAA tournament can be. He ran into a well-prepared opponent in Crowell, who scored the go-ahead takedown with 40 seconds left in overtime. Even though Serene and Kittanning coach Ken Bussard thought the referee's call was questionable because they thought both of the wrestlers were on the mat-circle line, Serene handled his first loss in almost a year with class.

After the match, Serene waited almost 30 seconds while Crowell celebrated briefly with his coaches. Then, he shook Crowell's hand, patted him on the shoulder and wished him luck.

"I have been brought up to treat people with respect," Serene said. "I mean, there were little kids watching. It was the right thing to do. I didn't want to act like a maniac."

"That's the way Josh is," Bussard said. "He's a class act."

Serene dropped into the consolation bracket where he lost an 11-4 decision to Jared Vivacqua of Council Rock North, and was pinned by Brian Shaw of Holidaysburg in the fifth-place match.

Although he was hoping to do better for them, Serene was pleased to see a small contingent of Kittanning fans in the bleachers.

"We've got a girls basketball team in the playoffs. We've got a hockey team in the playoffs. And people came here to see me?" Serene said. "That's awesome."

Serene hopes to compete in the Pennsylvania Wrestling Classic before heading to Brown University next year.

After that, he said he may seek a career in studio wrestling.

"I like performing," he said.

Serene also said he'd like to coach wrestling some day.

Another local wrestler to watch next season is Apollo-Ridge's Michael Coleman (145 pounds).

Coleman, a junior, did not place in the top eight at PIAAs, but he appreciated the opportunity to qualify despite Apollo-Ridge not having a wrestling team.

"I love the whole experience of being out here," Coleman said. "It's been great."

Coleman works hard on and off the mat. He helps run things on his family's Clarksburg farm.

"I get up at 5, feed the pigs, sheep, horses and cows, then I go to school all day, then I go to wrestling practice," he said.

Only one local wrestler has ever won a state title. Kittanning's Chamie Hooks won a Class AAA title at 140 pounds as a sophomore in 1995.

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