It was the perfect scenario for a memorable finish at the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic Sunday at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House.
The Pennsylvania all-star team had just posted two victories to cut the United States all-stars' lead to 19-18, and Canon-McMillan's Cody Wiercioch, a Pitt recruit, was on deck for the final bout of the evening.
The memorable finish the sellout crowd hoped for didn't come to fruition, as Wiercioch (168-5), a three-time PIAA champion, dropped a 7-4 decision to Zachary Beard (163-9), a four-time Oklahoma champion from Tuttle High School, in the 170-pound match. The loss allowed the United States squad to pull out a 22-18 victory.
"That was shocking," said Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary when asked if he had ever seen an opponent take Wiercioch down three times. "I've never seen that before. You have to give [Beard] a lot of credit. He did what he needed to do to beat Cody."
Wiercioch was joined on the Pennsylvania squad by Big Macs teammate Connor Schram (159-11), who dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to Joey Dance (186-14), a four-time Virginia champion from Christiansburg High School, in the 126-pound bout.
"He was real tough to take down," said Schram, who was rode out by Dance in the second tiebreaker period. "I really thought I could escape in the tiebreaker. He rode me pretty tough. I have to give it to him. He wrestled well."
Schram, a Stanford recruit, was a four-time PIAA finalist and two-time champ.
"It was disappointing to lose, but the whole weekend is something I'll never forget. It was a great experience to be on the same team with the best wrestlers in Pennsylvania and facing the best wrestlers in the country," he said.
Hampton's Jake Hart also was on the Pennsylvania squad. Hart (143-20), a two-time PIAA finalist and one-time champ, posted a 3-2 victory at 195 pounds against Broc Berge (177-9), a two-time Minnesota champion from Kasson-Mantorville High School.
"It's like a college dual," Hart said, "to have the best wrestlers in the country facing off with the best kids from Pennsylvania. It's a great honor to wrestle in the Wrestling Classic, especially for the PA team."
Hart gave up a takedown with 15 seconds left to fall behind, 2-1, then scored the deciding points with a reversal at the buzzer.
"I was a little concerned when he got the takedown, but I knew I still had time," Hart said. "I had to stay composed and wrestle the way I know how."
The match began with the 145-pound bout, as the Classic committee altered the matchups to feature the three WPIAL entries at the end. The two teams traded wins in the first four bouts.
Benjamin Whitford and Nathan Tomasello posted victories for the United States squad. Whitford (165-1), a four-time Michigan champ from St. Johns High School, won at 145 pounds. Tomasello (178-5), a four-time Ohio champion from Cuyahoga Valley Christian, won at 120.
Zach Fuentes and Aaron Bradley recorded wins for the Pennsylvania squad. Fuentes (181-36), a PIAA runner-up from Norristown, won at 113. Bradley (113-19), a PIAA champ from Nazareth, recorded an overtime victory at heavyweight.
The U.S. squad followed with wins in the next three bouts by Isaiah Martinez, Domenic Abounader and Dean Heil.
Martinez (207-7), a three-time California champ from Lemoore High School, won a major decision at 160. Abounader (135-8), a three-time Ohio champ from St. Edward, recorded a 1-0 win at 182. Heil (126-7), a four-time Ohio champ from St. Edward, posted a victory at 132.
That's when the Pennsylvania squad began its comeback. Milton's Ryan Solomon (142-14) and Reynolds' Austin Matthews (184-17) posted back-to-back wins. Solomon, a two-time PIAA champ, recorded a tiebreaker victory at 220. Matthews, a PIAA champ, won at 152.
Schram and Hart were next in the altered lineup.
Benton's Zain Retherford (130-3), a two-time PIAA champion, was named the most outstanding wrestler for the Pennsylvania team for his 2-1 win against unbeaten Anthony Ashnault (170-0), a four-time New Jersey champ from South Plainfield High School.
Beard was named most outstanding wrestler for the United States for his clinching win against Wiercioch.