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Canon-McMillan's Johnston wins title

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Sunday, March 5, 2006

When he's not wrestling, Canon-McMillan sophomore 112-pounder Colin Johnston enjoys shooting paintball with his friends.

Even in his free time, Johnston has a target on his back.

Johnston overcame the pressure of having to defend a title Saturday night by defeating Tyler Sim of West Mifflin, 5-0, to win his second straight WPIAL Class AAA/PIAA Southwest Regional title at Norwin High School.

"The second one was a lot harder," said Johnston, who improved to 41-1. "He (Sim) used to beat me all the time when we were little."

Most would say the lower-weight wrestlers are still "little," but Johnston is headed to the Giant Center nonetheless. The top three finishers advanced to the PIAA championships next weekend in Hershey. Last year, he went 1-2 at the state tournament.

"My attitude now is to just go out and dominate," Johnston said. "I feel like I have something to prove out there."

The match many fans had circled on their programs was the 140-pound final between Connellsville's Ashtin Primus and Nick Nelson of Shaler. Primus also won his second straight WPIAL title, and he did so in style. His 4-2 win gave him 175 career wins, tying him with Donnie Ament of Mt. Pleasant and Matt Fisk of Wyalusing for the state record.

Also winning a title was freshman James Fleming of West Mifflin, a transfer from Central Catholic who came into the tournament with a 9-4 record. He defeated Kiski Area's Tyler Oravec, 9-6, in the 135-pound finals. Oravec came in as the No. 1 seed.

"It's kind of a relief to know I'm going to states," Fleming said. "I knew I could beat (Oravec), but I didn't use my brother's (John) advice. He wanted me to be more defensive, but that wasn't my style."

This tournament may best be remembered for its upsets. In all, eight No. 1 seeds were denied titles.

The upset barrage started Friday when North Allegheny's Rob Waltko was beaten by A.J. Brentzel of Penn-Trafford in the 171-pound quarterfinals.

No. 1 seeds Mark Brown of Albert Gallatin (160), Nico Cortese of Greensburg Central Catholic (103), Brian Letters of Fox Chapel (152), Rudy Chelednik of Greensburg Central (119), Zach McKendree of Kiski Area (145) and George Hingson of Moon (215) all lost prior to the finals.

Waltko lost, 9-4, to Nathan Murin of Trinity in the third-place match. Waltko won a WPIAL title and finished second in the state last year.

Letters was upset by Ryan Goodman of Latrobe, 1-0, in the semifinals, but lost his chance at third place when he was pinned by Matt Ryan of Canon-McMillan in the consolation finals.

Kittanning senior Josh Serene won his first WPIAL title and remained the only undefeated wrestler in the tournament. Serene claimed the 171-pound title with a 5-4 decision over Brentzel. A second-period takedown carried him to the win.

Serene, who was seeded second, is Kittanning's first WPIAL champion since Adam Brochetti in 2002.

"Losing was not an option for me," Serene said. "I came here to win a title. Now, I hope I can carry the momentum into Hershey."

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