Most high school wrestling tournaments recognize the top performer with the outstanding wrestler award. Coaches of the participating teams vote for the outstanding wrestler award, but many will find a lightweight or middleweight to his liking and vote before the finals are over.
With that in mind, it's rare to see an upperweight chosen as the outstanding wrestler. That was not the case with last weekend's Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Region tournament at Norwin High School, as the feature match of the finals was at 195 pounds.
Hampton's Jake Hart was the obvious choice for the outstanding wrestler award after his upset of WPIAL and PIAA champion Matt McCutcheon in the 195-pound title match.
"Knocking the No. 1 kid off his throne is a big confidence booster," said Hart, after scoring a takedown 13 seconds into overtime to pull out a 3-1 victory. "This really means a lot because I wasn't getting any respect in the rankings coming in. To know that I knocked that kid off and to know that I did it myself, it feels amazing.
Hart (40-1) was a WPIAL and PIAA runner-up last season, losing to Central Catholic's Perry Hills in both title matches.
"Finishing second was starting to get to me," Hart admitted. "I should be getting some respect now."
Hart is expecting a rematch in this weekend's PIAA championships, which began this morning.
"I'm expecting a rematch in the state finals," Hart said. "I'm excited. I'm ready. I can beat anybody on any given day if I wrestle the way I know how to."
Hart will be joined by Hampton teammate Kevin Synan (37-7), who placed third at 145 pounds.
School record for North Hills
North Hills will be well represented at Hershey. The Indians set a school record by qualifying four wrestlers for the state tournament.
Freshman Gage Curry (34-3) placed second at 106 pounds for the Indians. His only setback was a 4-1 loss to Latrobe freshman Luke Pletcher (37-2) in the title match.
Curry will be joined by twins Tyler and Drew Walker and Alan Turcinhodzic, all of whom placed third in their weight class.
Tyler Walker (35-2) earned his berth with a 5-3 overtime win against Peters Township's Tyler Buckiso in the consolation for third place at 126.
"It was disappointing to lose to [Franklin Regional's Michael] Kemerer [in the semifinals], but I fought back to qualify," Tyler Walker said. "It's great to be going to Hershey again, and this time my brother is going. We practice together and we live together, so it's appropriate that we go to states together."
Drew Walker (32-5) scored a takedown with 17 seconds left in overtime to score a 7-5 victory against Norwin's Joel Pezze in the 132-pound consolation final.
"I'm so excited. This is the first time for me," said Drew Walker, who was able to watch some of his brother's match, but didn't see the end.
"My match began during the third period of his match," Drew Walker said. "I didn't see the end of his match, but I did hear his name announced as the winner during a break in my match. At that point, I said to myself, now it's my turn."
Turcinhodzic (32-6) felt the same way after his 4-3 win against North Allegheny's Zach Smith in the match for third at 195.
"Ever since I started wrestling, my goal was to get to Hershey and wrestle in the state tournament," Turcinhodzic said. "I've come up short in my other tries, but now I'm going to Hershey. I'm so happy now, I can't describe it. And to have three teammates going with me makes it even more special. I'll be able to support my teammates and they'll be able to support me. Our team has bonded together so well this season. It's a great way to end my high school wrestling career."
DeCiantis avenges loss
North Allegheny's Alex DeCiantis is no longer haunted by his loss to Belle Vernon's Adam Nickelson in last year's WPIAL semifinals.
"It's been lurking in the back of my mind since it happened," said DeCiantis, after claiming the 182-pound WPIAL title and avenging his loss to Nickelson with a 7-2 victory in Saturday's finals. "It made me train harder and harder. That extra work paid off with today's win."
DeCiantis (32-2) was the last of three North Allegheny finalists. Unfortunately, the other two were beaten in overtime.
Dom Forys (39-3), the top seed at 113 pounds, was upset by Waynesburg's A.C. Headlee, the No. 2 seed, 7-5.
Jesse Rodgers (36-5) had the 138-pound title within his grasp as he held a 3-1 lead late in his title match with Franklin Regional's Josh Maruca, but gave up a takedown with eight seconds left in regulation. Maruca eventually won with an escape in the second tiebreaker period.
"I tried not to focus on their matches," said DeCiantis, when asked if it was tough to follow two losing teammates. "They worked really hard too and came up a little short. I expect to see both high on the podium this week at Hershey."
DeCiantis accepted a scholarship offer to Drexel University after considering a college football career.
"The main reason I picked Drexel was because I know the two assistant coaches, Tyler Nauman and Zack Sheaffer," DeCiantis said. "My brother Karl wrestled with them at Pitt."
First Published March 7, 2013 5:00 AM