Noah Wilps has been to the Giant Center in Hershey three times and will make a fourth visit this weekend, but this trip will be much different for the Chartiers Valley junior.
"I've been to Hershey three times to watch my brothers wrestle in the state tournament," said Wilps, referring to Matt and Tyler, who are starters at the University of Pittsburgh. "This will be my first time to wrestle at the Giant Center. It feels kind of weird. I never thought I would be going this year."
Wilps became the third member of the Wilps family to qualify for the PIAA Class AAA tournament by placing second in the WPIAL/Southwest Region tournament, which was held over the weekend at Norwin High School. He advanced to the 170-pound final before losing to three-time WPIAL champion Cody Wiercioch in the title match.
"It was great to finally wrestle in the WPIAL finals," Wilps said. "And my family, including Matt and Tyler, were there to share it with me. That meant a lot to me."
Matt Wilps posted a 108-27 record from 2005-08 and placed third in the state at 189 pounds in his senior season. Tyler Wilps placed eighth and fifth in two PIAA appearances, both at 171. He compiled a 127-36 record from 2007-10.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be as good as my brothers, especially during my freshman year," said Noah Wilps, who had a 19-20 record in his varsity debut as a 152-pound freshman. "Last year, I realized something very important. I have to wrestle for myself and not for my brothers. I have to be my own person."
Wilps (30-8 this season, 76-41 career) was still finding it a bit hard to believe 24 hours after wrestling in the WPIAL finals.
"My goal was to make it to the state tournament," Wilps said. "I hadn't really thought about much more than that. My new goal is to place. Any place on the podium would be nice."
South Fayette sets mark
South Fayette continued to re-write the school record book at the Class AA Southwest Regional, which was held at Altoona High School. The Lions shattered the school record by qualifying five wrestlers for the PIAA tournament.
"We broke the record we set last year," South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard said. "We had three kids qualify last year. This year, we almost doubled that total."
The Lions also claimed the Southwest Region team title.
"With eight qualifiers, I knew we were a threat to win the [regional] title," Chaussard said. "But then we lost two kids on Friday and another on Saturday. At that point, I wasn't sure what to expect."
South Fayette was third after the first day of competition, but came out on top with a strong second day. The Lions outscored Burrell, 88-83, to win the team title.
"Seth Carr's win in the finals clinched it for us, but I didn't find that out until after the finals were over," said Chaussard.
Carr (36-4) won the 113-pound weight class with a 4-3 upset of Ligonier Valley's Justin Patrick, a returning region champion.
Carr was joined in the finals by teammates Jared Walker and Michael Fetchet, but both had to settle for a silver medal.
Walker (31-7) lost to Cody Law, a returning region champ from Forest Hills, in the 160-pound final.
Fetchet (39-3) dropped a 4-3 double-overtime decision to Jefferson-Morgan's Dustin Conti, who claimed his second title.
Mike Carr (29-11) placed fourth at 120 and Grant Fetchet (37-10) finished fifth at 152.
"Winning the Southwest Region team title is something special that doesn't happen every year," Chaussard said. "The kids turned in an impressive performance. We're very proud of that."
South Side Beaver qualifies 1
South Side Beaver coach Jerry McCoy had hoped to have three wrestlers qualify for the PIAA Class AA tournament, but it didn't work out that way. Nathan Reckner was the Rams only qualifier, and he didn't even win a regional title.
"It was a disappointing weekend, except for Nathan," South Side Beaver coach Jerry McCoy said. "I really thought we would have three kids going to Hershey, but Shane and Connor came up short."
McCoy was referring to Nathan Reckner (33-3), Shane Gentry (38-6) and Connor Payne (34-9). Gentry fell one win short of a berth at 132 after an 8-3 loss to Burrell's J.R. Andrejcik in the consolation for fifth place. Payne fell two wins short of a berth at 160.
"Shane lost to the same kid twice," said McCoy, referring to Southern Huntingdon's Brennon Shields. "And the first was an overtime rideout. The kid he wrestled wanted it more than Shane."
Payne's losses ended his hopes of recording 100 career pins.
"Connor finished his career with 97 pins," McCoy said. "He told me that 97 is a whole lot better than 99. It would have been harder to deal with if he came up one pin short."
Reckner earned his third consecutive PIAA berth by placing third at 120 pounds.
"Nathan had a great weekend," McCoy said. "His only loss was to three-time regional champion Josh Patrick [of Ligonier Valley]. Nathan has a chance to finish his career with a PIAA medal."
First Published March 7, 2013 5:00 AM