Layne Skundrich celebrated another Allegheny County Wrestling Championships team title with his North Allegheny teammates Saturday at Fox Chapel, but this year was different … much different.
Skundrich, a junior, placed third at 220 pounds in last year’s tournament.
“I got a late start last season because the football team went all the way,” said Skundrich, referring to North Allegheny’s WPIAL and PIAA football titles. “I wasn’t in wrestling condition and it showed on the mat. I was barely hanging on in the third period of most matches.”
Skundrich was so frustrated that he left the team before the PIAA Class AAA team championships and missed all of the individual postseason tournaments.
“I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to wrestle and eventually realized I had made a mistake,” said Skundrich, who was 16-4 when he left the team. “It was really tough following my teammates the rest of the season.”
Skundrich returned to the team this year with a new love for wrestling.
“There’s nothing like wrestling when you are in condition,” Skundrich said. “I realized that wrestling is something I would like to do in college. I want to get a scholarship.”
Skundrich’s renewed love of wrestling showed over the weekend as he captured the 220-pound title at the county championships. He won five bouts in the two-day tournament and had to go a full six minutes in four of those bouts. In the title match, he posted a 3-0 victory against Chartiers Valley’s Michael Roper.
“I felt so much better in the third period,” Skundrich said. “Conditioning was the big factor. I was able to start on time this year [because the football team lost early in the WPIAL playoffs]. I was ready and eager to start wrestling season. That made a big difference.”
Skundrich was one of 10 North Allegheny wrestlers who placed among the top eight in their weight class, as the Tigers ran away with the team title. The Tigers, who had five finalists, outscored runner-up Mt. Lebanon by 60.5 points (243.5-183).
Dom Forys and Luke Landefeld also won individual titles for North Allegheny. Forys became the third wrestler in county history to win four titles. He claimed the 126-pound title with a convincing 22-5 technical fall of Thomas Jefferson’s Braden Flinn.
“I was having fun putting on a show for the crowd,” said Forys, who received two other trophies for being named the Outstanding Wrestler, and the Brotherhood of Wrestling Award, which is given to a wrestler who exhibits good sportsmanship. “It’s all about having fun. And winning the team title made it even more enjoyable.”
Landefeld recorded a 16-1 technical fall in the 113-pound final against McKeesport Area’s Kevin Statler.
“I watched my brother [Drew] wrestle in this tournament the last couple years,” said Landefeld, a freshman. “It felt great to come in here and win as a freshman.”
Jake Hinkson and Zach Smith placed second for North Allegheny. Hinkson dropped a 6-2 decision to South Fayette’s Mike Carr in the 132-pound final. Smith lost, 11-4, to Montour’s Cole Macek at 195.
North Hills sophomore wins
North Hills had three wrestlers advance to the county finals, including sophomore Gage Curry who won his second 106-pound title in a row with a pin in 28 seconds of Pine-Richland’s Hunter Baxter. Curry also received an award for the most pins in the least amount of time. He recorded five pins in 5:59.
“This is the first time I’ve had five pins in a tournament,” said Curry, who moved down from 113 for this tournament. “The plan all year was to move down for the county tournament.”
It was actually the second time Curry had the most pins in the least amount of time. In last year’s tournament, he had four pins in 9:03.
“I like this tournament because it helps prepare me for the postseason tournaments,” Curry said.
Curry was joined in the finals by teammates Jonathan Avon and Elliot King, but both had to settle for silver medals. Avon lost, 8-0, in the 160-pound final to Penn Hills’ Te’Shan Campbell. King was pinned by Mt. Lebanon’s Kellan Stout in the 182-pound final.
Shaler’s Heinl a county champ
Shaler’s Mike Heinl made a second consecutive appearance in the finals and left as a champ this time. Heinl recorded a 5-2 victory in the 120-pound final against Mt. Lebanon’s Kevin Kinyua.
“Last year, I lost to Gage Curry in the finals,” Heinl said. “This year, I came back with the goal of winning a title and I was able to do that. Winning this title means a lot to me. They have all the past champions listed in the hallway [at Fox Chapel] and I wanted to be on that list. I want to be remembered for my accomplishment.”