Derry pair reaches state finals
HERSHEY — Jimmy Gulibon knows how it feels to wrestle in the state finals. Now, his teammate, Travis Shaffer, gets to experience it, too.
Both Derry Area wrestlers won semifinal matches at the PIAA Class AA tournament Friday night at Giant Center.
Shaffer, a senior, has been a three-time PIAA placewinner. Gulibon has won consecutive state titles. Finally, Shaffer gets his chance at glory when he meets Reynolds sophomore Austin Matthews in the 140-pound final. The finals begin at 2:30 p.m. today.
Shaffer (36-4) built a 5-0 lead against Line Mountain senior Travis Erdman and coasted to a 6-3 victory.
"It should be a great final," Shaffer said. "I feel I'm wrestling well, and so is Austin."
Shaffer has adopted Gulibon's aggressive style. Midway through the opening period, he attacked Erdman, who was on a knee. Erdman took injury time after the move.
"It's good to go after guys instead of waiting," Shaffer said. "That's what Jimmy does. If there is an opportunity, we're going to explode and go after it. If we can get into someone's head, we're going to pound on them. ... If it hurts them, it hurts them."
Shaffer got a takedown in the first period, and Erdman took the bottom position in the second. Shaffer used a tilt to score a three-point near-fall.
"That's what I wanted to do. If I was on top and got a turn, I'd be in good shape," Shaffer said. "I just stuck to my game plan, wrestled hard — and it paid off for me."
Gulibon (35-1) won by a technical fall, 19-4, against Benton sophomore Colt Cotten at 119 pounds. He used seven takedowns to roll to the victory and will face Bethlehem Catholic junior Randy Cruz (42-5) today.
Gulibon seemed happier for Shaffer than he was for himself.
"This is great for Travis," he said. "He's worked hard all year. It's pretty exciting — for him and Derry wrestling."
Even though Gulibon won easily, there were a few tense moments. Cotten almost recorded a takedown in the first period, then he nearly caught Gulibon in a headlock in the second. But Gulibon wouldn't allow Cotten to take advantage.
"I just tried to keep my composure and not get nervous," he said. "I stayed out of bad situations and stayed on the attack."
The 160-pound final will feature two familiar foes: Charleroi sophomore Cody Wiercioch and Burrell senior Travis McKillop. The two have met six times, each alternating wins. McKillop won the last meeting, in the Southwest Regional final.
"I guess it's my turn to win — at least I hope so," said Wiercioch, a state champion last year at 152. "It's getting a little bit old. I just have to go out and stay calm. I just have to wrestle my hardest. I just have to stick what I do well."
Both won their semifinal matches by 3-0 scores. Wiercioch defeated Bethlehem Catholic junior Elliot Riddick, and McKillop blanked Hickory senior Tyler Gargano.
"He's good on his feet," Wiercioch said of McKillop. "It should be another great match."
Kittanning freshman Jason Nolf (103) and returning state champion Nick Carr (152) also advanced. Nolf upset Darian Cruz of Bethlehem Catholic, 2-1, and Carr posted a 7-2 win over David Osterberg of Northwestern.
Burrell had four others in the semifinals, but all dropped their matches. Both of Shady Side Academy's semifinalists also lost, as well as Carlynton's Montana Trombetta at 145 and Beth-Center's Jeff Tarley at heavyweight.