Charleroi wrestler blazes a new path
In wrestling, it helps to know your opponent — especially in a championship match.
Charleroi freshman 152-pounder Cody Wiercioch made it two out of three wins against Burrell junior Travis McKillop this season, defeating him, 2-0, on Saturday night to win a PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional title at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Wiercioch (34-1) is believed to be the first Charleroi wrestler to win a regional title. He advanced to his first PIAA tournament, set for Thursday through Saturday at Giant Center in Hershey.
Wiercioch lost to McKillop in the WPIAL tournament but beat him at the Powerade Tournament.
"When you know your opponent, you know what's coming," Wiercioch said. "And you know how to defend it."
The top five regional finishers in each weight class advance to the PIAA tournament.
Burrell junior Dave Makara, eager to improve on a seventh-place finish at the state tournament from a year ago, won his first regional title, pinning Anthony Elias of Shady Side Academy in 1:56.
"My goal was to pin him quick and get off the mat," said Makara, who improved to 41-5. "I am happy with the way I am wrestling right now."
Burrell 215-pounder Brian Beattie also won his first title, stopping Mount Union's Jamel Fortson, 6-3, in the finals.
Mt. Pleasant junior Nick Hough overcame a first-day loss to reach the finals but ran into one of the most decorated participants in the championship. Hough, a 103-pounder, fell 15-0 to North Star's Nick Roberts, the defending state champion.
Hough was 0-2 at last year's regional tournament and failed to advance.
"I just wish I could have given him a better match," Hough said.
In one of the best semifinal matches of the day, heavyweight Jeff Tarley of Beth-Center held off Jake Linn of Charleroi, 3-2, in an ultimate tiebreaker.
Tarley (35-1) used the momentum to win the 285-pound title, defeating John Rizzo, 5-3 in overtime.
His only loss of the season came against Rizzo.
"The reason I lost the first was because I underestimated his strength," Tarley said. "I was trying to wear him down."
Valley's Kyle Dudley also recorded a runner-up finish, battling a sore knee along the way.
Six of Burrell's nine regional qualifiers made the state tournament.
Chartiers-Houston junior Michael Innes finished second after dropping a 1-0 decision to Phillip Steinberg of Central Cambria in the 140 final.
Jeannette junior Michael DePalma wrestled back after losing in the semifinals and is set to make his first trip to the state tournament. He won a thrilling third-place match over Burrell's Jeremy Landowski.
"I have only accomplished part of my goal," DePalma said. "I have been to Hershey to watch football, but this is a lot more exciting for me."
Jeannette freshman Sean Lavella gained valuable experience with a sixth-place finish at 103.
Other district wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament include Ligonier Valley's Josh Patrick and Zach Sparrow of Beth-Center (103); Charleroi's Aaron Toth (112), Ray Campbell (215) and Jake Linn (285), Burrell's Travis McKillop (152), Dakota DesLauriers (171) and Nolan Greenwald (160); Blairsville's Adam Weinell (119) and Noah Tarr (135); Bentworth's Francis Mizia (130); and Dylan Demain (160).
Burrell won the team title with 125 points. Shady Side was second with 110.
A couple of matches were heated and cost teams points.
Shady Side Academy lost 10 points for a flagrant misconduct against 285-pounder Nick Ciesielski, who punched his opponent in the ribs during their consolation bout.
Twelve points was deducted from Fort Cherry's total after Greg Kumer pushed Forest Hills' Jeff Meier late in their 215-pound consolation match and was called for a flagrant misconduct.