South Xtra: Canon-McMillan's fourth title in a row a senior moment

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Canon-McMillan seniors Connor Schram, Alex Campbell and William Pihiou wanted a photo together with the WPIAL Class AAA championship trophy.

The all proudly held up four fingers. Winning a fourth consecutive WPIAL title meant more to this trio than the rest of their Canon-McMillan teammates for the obvious reason.

"We're all seniors and we've all been starters since our freshman year," said Schram, a three-time PIAA finalist. "It's awesome to never lose a WPIAL title. The three of us have been able to celebrate four WPIAL team titles. It's a great feeling."

Campbell, a WPIAL runner-up last year, agreed that the fourth title had special significance.

"It's the cherry on top," Campbell said. "It's a great way to end my senior year. It's been a heck of a ride, and it's far from being over."

Canon-McMillan (15-0) became the first team in the 35-year history of the WPIAL team tournament to win four consecutive titles with Saturday's 31-26 victory against Franklin Regional (17-3) at Chartiers Valley High School.

"This title definitely means more to me than winning last year," said senior Cody Wiercioch, who celebrated his second title with the Big Macs after attending Charleroi Area his first two years of high school.

Canon-McMillan has been fighting injuries and illnesses all season. The Big Macs have been without WPIAL champion Solomon Chishko the entire season due to an elbow injury.

Two-year starter Malachi Krenzelak has also been out the past three weeks with an injury. Pihiou was also out of the Big Macs lineup for more than two weeks, but he returned to action on Friday with his shoulder taped up.

The Big Macs returned to Canonsburg with another title, but it wasn't easy. In fact, they fell behind, 17-5, when Franklin Regional won four of the first five bouts. It was not surprising, as the strength of the Panthers lineup is in its middle weights.

Canon-McMillan won four of the next five bouts to tie the score at 20. Wiercioch moved up to 195 and recorded a pin to lead the Big Macs rally.

Franklin Regional regained the lead with a gutsy performance by Luke Fleck at heavyweight. Fleck, who missed most of the season with a knee injury, escaped in the third overtime period to edge Campbell, 3-2. Campbell had moved up from 220.

Canon-McMillan regained the lead with Brendan Price's 15-0 technical fall of Andrew Marshall at 106. But it didn't last long, as Franklin Regional's Kyle Berk posted a 10-8 decision against Josh Minor at 113.

Franklin Regional took a narrow 26-25 lead into the final match, but Canon-McMillan junior Dalton Macri brought the Big Mac fans to their feet with a quick pin of the Panthers Dan Turner to clinch the victory.

"I was able to feed off everybody's energy," said Macri, commenting on wrestling in the final bout. "I saw the crowd and it really pumped me up."

Macri and his teammates are looking forward to the PIAA team tournament, which began on Moday with preliminary-round matches. Canon-McMillan begins its defense today with a first-round match against District 3 third-place finisher Spring Grove (22-1).

"I'm confident we can win another state title, and it would certainly help to have a full lineup," Macri said. "Everybody has to step up their game, regardless of who's in the lineup."

Canon-McMillan claimed its first PIAA Class AAA title last year after ending Central Dauphin's four-year reign with a 28-25 upset in the semifinals. The victory also ended Central Dauphin's state record 95-match winning streak.

"We're glad that Central Dauphin is in the other half of the bracket this year, but we can't be concerned about them yet," Canon-McMillan coach Chris Mary reminded. "We're facing a very good Spring Grove team that came within seven points [33-26] of upsetting Central Dauphin in the District 3 semifinals. It's their only loss.

"And if we beat Spring Grove, we will most likely face an Erie McDowell squad that beat Franklin Regional by 18 points [37-19]. It will be a tough road to get back to the finals."

hsother

First Published February 7, 2013 5:00 AM


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