Hopewell wrestling coach Jason Martsolf believes a loss can be turned into a positive if the athlete learns from it.
Three of his wrestlers proved that adage to be true last weekend at the Burgettstown Tournament.
"Travis Sonson, Dustin Winkle and Danny Santia each beat a kid who beat them earlier in the season," said Martsolf, referring to three Vikings who earned place-winner status by finishing among the top six in their weight classes. "It's so rewarding to see one of your kids avenge a loss."
Sonson, a 120-pound junior, was pinned by Seneca Valley's Nick Zoria on Jan. 12 at the South Side Beaver Duals. The two met again in the Burgettstown Tournament title match and Sonson registered a 5-2 victory to top the 19-man bracket.
Winkle, a 126-pound junior, lost, 4-1, to Freedom's Kurt Kitzman during the Midwestern Athletic Conference Tournament on Jan. 4. The two met again over the weekend in the quarterfinals and Winkle recorded a 2-0 victory. Winkle went on to place fifth in the 19-man bracket.
Santia, a 152-pound junior, dropped a 7-3 decision to Seneca Valley's Tyler Schillero during the South Side Beaver Duals. The two faced off again over the weekend in the quarterfinals and Santia posted a 9-6 victory. Santia went on to place fourth in the 21-man bracket.
"All three wins played a big part in us winning the team title," Martsolf said. "And two of the wins were against Seneca Valley opponents. If we lose those three bouts, Seneca Valley takes home the team title."
Hopewell claimed its third Burgettstown Tournament title in three years by accumulating 186.5 points in the two-day competition. Seneca Valley was second with 172.5 points.
"We wrestled much better this weekend than we did at the MAC Tournament [held on Jan. 4-5]," Hopewell senior Damon Drositis said. "Our performance at the MAC Tournament was a wake-up call for us."
Hopewell saw its four-year reign as MAC Tournament champions come to an end this year as West Allegheny claimed the team title.
"We had expectations of winning another team title, but had a letdown and fell short," said Martsolf, now in his fifth season at the helm. "Some of the kids seemed to be out of shape."
After the Vikings disappointing performance at the MAC Tournament, Martsolf shifted into postseason mode, a little early.
"I told the kids to look at the rest of the season as our postseason," Martsolf said. "That meant Wednesday's match against Montour was our first playoff match. The kids stepped it up in practice and looked impressive in our [49-30] win against Montour."
The momentum from that victory carried over to the Burgettstown Tournament. The Vikings had eight wrestlers earn place-winner status, including five who advanced to the finals. Sonson was one of three Vikings who won titles.
Hopewell's other gold medalists were Drositis and Michael Tempalski. Drositis claimed the 170-pound title with a 10-2 victory against Zack Pinkas of Forest Hills. Tempalski pinned Avella's Zack Simonelli at 1:20 in the 182-pound final.
"This was my second title here," Drositis said. "I placed second as a sophomore, then won last year. I didn't wrestle in this tournament as a freshman. I was injured."
Drositis' career has been slowed several times by injuries.
"I strained my MCL in a playoff match against Connellsville last year," Drositis said. "That put me out for the season. It was so disappointing. My biggest goal this year is to stay healthy. If I can do that, I know I can do well in the postseason tournaments."
Filippo Crivelli and Damon Sims Jr. placed second for the Vikings. Crivelli dropped a 7-0 decision to South Park's Jake Wentzel in the 132-pound final. Sims lost, 3-2, in double overtime to Southmoreland's Jacob Beistel in the 285-pound final.
Hopewell's other place-winner was Nick Guzma, a 145-pound junior who placed sixth.
"Winning this title gives us a lot of confidence going into the section and WPIAL [team] tournaments," Drositis said.
The Vikings clinched first place in Section 4B with the Montour victory. The Section 4 Tournament took place Wednesday night at Canon-McMillan High School to determine seeding for the WPIAL Tournament, which begins next week.