The North Allegheny wrestling team had just suffered an emotional 28-27 loss to Franklin Regional in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals.
A meer 14 hours later, the Tigers were back at Chartiers Valley High School for the second day in a row, but this time for a consolation prize.
The Tigers needed to put the disappointment of not wrestling in the title match behind them and concentrate on another goal: win the consolation final and earn a return trip to the PIAA team tournament.
"That was my biggest concern, and actually it wasn't that tough at all," said North Allegheny coach Jamie Kyriazis, when asked how tough it was to get his squad ready for its consolation match with Kiski Area. "I told the guys they could be disappointed tonight, and that I would be, too. But when we woke up in the morning, we had to put that behind us. We still had the goal of returning to Hershey and that we couldn't lose sight of that."
Kyriazis' strategy worked to perfection, as North Allegheny rolled to a 44-20 victory against Kiski Area.
"I felt really good going into the match," Kyriazis said. "I could see the kids were focused on their goal."
North Allegheny won the first three matches to build an 11-0 advantage. Kiski Area responded with wins in the next three bouts to tie the score at 11. The Tigers' Jesse Rodgers (138) and the Cavaliers' Cole Landowski (145) traded technical falls during the two rallies.
North Allegheny took charge of the dual meet at 170 and recorded victories in six of the final eight weight classes. Clay Byerly and Alex DeCiantis began the final rally with back-to-back pins at 170 and 182. Scott Stossel and Connor D'Amato sealed the victory with back-to-back pins at 106 and 113.
The match ended with Tigers star Dom Forys receiving a forfeit at 120 pounds.
"We responded like true champions by coming back from such a disappointing loss," Forys said. "I'm really proud of how we responded to the adversity. It shows just how much we wanted to get back to Hershey."
North Allegheny's loss to Franklin Regional in the semifinals was even more painful because it was the second time the Tigers lost to the Panthers. The two met Dec. 15 at the Franklin Regional Duals, the same day the Tigers football team was playing in the PIAA title game. The Tigers forfeited two weight classes and had subs in at four other weight classes. To nobody's surprise, Franklin Regional posted a 45-30 victory.
North Allegheny had a full lineup in the rematch and came within one point of a second consecutive appearance in the WPIAL title match.
"We got off to a good start against Franklin Regional, but didn't do well in the middle weights, which was their strength," Kyriazis said. "We made a comeback at the end, but came up short."
Franklin Regional built a 28-16 lead with five consecutive victories from 126 to 152, which included losses by Forys and Jesse Rodgers.
Forys, ranked No. 2 at 120 in Class AAA in the WPIAL, moved up to 126 and lost, 6-3, to Franklin Regional's Michael Kemerer, who is No. 2 at 126. Rodgers, ranked No. 2 at 138, dropped a 1-0 decision to the Panthers' Tyler Smith, who is ranked No. 1 at 132.
North Allegheny also had a one-point loss at 285. Dan Watson dropped a 3-2 decision to Franklin Regional's Luke Fleck.
North Allegheny guaranteed its trip to Hershey with Monday's 72-7 victory against City League champion Allderdice in the preliminary round. The Tigers now have the unfortunate task of facing six-time District 3 champion Central Dauphin in today's first round, which is being held at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"We're just excited to get back to Hershey and see some team's we haven't seen before," Kyriazis said.