Derry teammates each win third WPIAL crown
Derry 119-pounder Jimmy Gulibon prefers to wrestle on his feet.
His teammate, senior 140-pounder Travis Shaffer, is more of an opponent-on-the-ground grappler.
At the WPIAL Class AA individual championships Saturday, each talked about needing to improve what the other does well.
But, as it turned out, neither suffered too much because of weaknesses.
Both Gulibon and Shaffer secured their third WPIAL titles. Gulibon defeated Shady Side Academy's Phillip Elias, 19-6, and Shaffer won, 2-0, over South Side Beaver's David Demor.
"If we could combine our abilities, we'd be like the perfect wrestler," Shaffer joked. "(The stylistic difference) helps in the practice room. ... We make each other better every day, and it's a blessing to have him there."
Fourteen wrestlers went home with WPIAL gold at Chartiers Valley High School, and eight were repeat champions. The tournament also determined which seven wrestlers in each weight class advanced to the PIAA Class AA Southwest Regional tournament, which begins Friday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Gulibon, a junior, and Shaffer were two of the four wrestlers to win a third title — South Fayette senior 152-pounder Nick Carr and Burrell senior 130-pounder Dave Makara also accomplished the feat.
Burrell led all teams in champions (five) and regional tournament qualifiers (nine). However, in a much-anticipated rematch of last season's 152-pound WPIAL final, Burrell senior Travis McKillop lost, 2-1, in the 160-pound finals to Charleroi sophomore Cody Wiercioch, who fell in the title match a year ago.
The bout was scoreless after one period. Then Wiercioch, a defending regional and PIAA champion, managed a reversal 51 seconds into the second period.
McKillop, a two-time WPIAL champion, escaped from Wiercioch's control one minute into the third period and scrambled for a takedown, but Wiercioch avoided the attacks.
"We definitely know each other well," said Wiercioch, who described the bout as a "redemption match."
"I think we wrestle the same way, and that's why it's always such a competitive match. ... I think it just came down to conditioning in this match. ... I'll definitely meet him again."
Three Jeannette wrestlers reached the finals, but all settled for silver.
Sophomore 125-pounder Sean LaVella lost by pin to Shady Side Academy's Geoff Alexander, a four-time champion who was named the tournament's outstanding wrestler.
Senior 135-pounder Michael DePalma was pinned by Burrell's Jeremy Landowski with 22 seconds left in the third period; DePalma led, 6-4, at the time.
Senior 215-pounder Anthony Deni lost, 2-1, in overtime to defending WPIAL and regional champion Brian Beattie of Burrell.
Jeannette coach Matt Lebe took each of the losses in stride.
About LaVella: "He knew what he was getting into ... at that point, we just wanted him to go out and battle."
About DePalma: "We kind of controlled the tempo of the match, but Landowski managed to get the pin. That's the way it goes sometimes, and hopefully we'll be better for it."
About Deni: "If he continues to get better, we hope he'll realize he has the ability to wrestle with some of the best guys in the state."
And about the team as a whole: "For us to have three guys in the final is a very big step for the program."
Southmoreland junior Jordan Kitta, a sixth-place finisher last season, defeated Jefferson-Morgan's Joe Phillips, 4-3, in the 189-pound final to secure his first WPIAL title. He attributed the jump on the medal stand to an increased commitment to aggressive wrestling.
"I was keeping my offense up," Kitta said. "I didn't do that a lot (in the past)."
Mt. Pleasant senior 112-pounder Nick Hough and Charleroi junior 125-pounder Aaron Toth, defending WPIAL champions at 103 and 112, respectively, placed third this season.