East Xtra: Central Catholic's Hills finishes his career in grand style

PIAA WRESTING CHAMPIONSHIPS


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HERSHEY, Pa. -- Sanshiro Abe recognizes the fait accompli that he -- and the entire wrestling community -- is forced to come to grips with accepting.

Still, he'll give it the proverbial ol' college try.

"I tell him he should wrestle in college," said Abe, Central Catholic's wrestling coach, referring to Perry Hills. "We always joke around about that.

"But he's going to play football in college. I'm afraid his wrestling career is over."

Abe was speaking near the medal stand on the floor of the Giant Center, where minutes earlier Hills had closed out the scholastic portion of his wrestling career with a 5-1 victory against Jake Hart of Hampton in the PIAA Class AAA 195-pound championship match.

Hills completed a perfect 35-0 season with his second consecutive PIAA medal, taking an early lead with a takedown against rival Hart and wrestling a strong technical match to close out a tournament in Hershey in which he cruised to easy victories in the first three rounds.

"I've just trained real hard with my coaches 'Sonny' Abe and John Cortese," Hills said. "They've worked with me ever since my freshman year. Coach Cortese has been drilling with me since I was a freshman, and I just owe everything to them -- the undefeated season and state championship."

Hills, who still has the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic and the county tournament among the dwindling number of events at which he will wrestle competitively, signed with Maryland to play quarterback.

Hills threw for 1,571 yards and 14 touchdowns this past football season, leading Central Catholic to an undefeated regular season.

"Just to go out with a bang like this, and knowing that this is my last high school match, it's really exciting," Hills said.

Hills, a Plum resident who has been wrestling since he was very young, became the first Central Catholic wrestler to have an undefeated, PIAA championship-winning season. A fourth-place medal-winner at last season's PIAA tournament, Hills completes his scholastic career 142-24.

"It's a great season for him to go out on," Abe said.

Meanwhile, Kiski Area's Matt McCutcheon still has another high school season remaining.

A junior, he won his first PIAA gold medal during his third appearance in Hershey this past weekend. McCutcheon beat Erie McDowell's Khlique Harris, 2-1, in the tiebreaker period of a championship match that didn't feature too much action as a result of Harris' more passive strategy.

"He's more of a different style than I am, so I was trying to get in to get my offense going," McCutcheon said of Harris, the Northwest Regional champion. "I just had to make sure I didn't get taken down."

McCutcheon (41-1) pinned second-round opponent Martin Strenk and had only four points scored on him in his other three matches combined in the PIAA tournament.

McCutcheon placed fifth last season after not medalling as a freshman.

"Definitely, my nerves were a lot less this year, coming back after the past two years," he said.

"My coach [Chuck Tursky] always tells me, 'It doesn't matter what happens in WPIALs, when you get to states, just string good, strong matches together.'"

McCutcheon, the WPIAL champion, improved to 120-12 in his career.

"One more," he said with a smile, referring to returning to Hershey next March for another PIAA championship run. "Time for one more."



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