It’s been a season the Baldwin High School wrestling team will not soon forget because George McCormack, the Highlanders coach the past 19 years, lost his yearlong battle with esophageal cancer Nov. 30, one week before the season began.
“It was tough losing coach McCormack,” said De’Adrian Carter, a 106-pound senior. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for coach McCormack. He made me what I am today. I’m wrestling for him this weekend.”
Carter is hoping to honor McCormack’s memory by qualifying for the PIAA Class AAA tournament. To reach that goal, Carter must finish among the top three in his weight class at the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Tournament, which began Thursday night at Canon-McMillan High School.
Carter’s tribute began with an 8-3, first-round win against West Allegheny’s Mason Schaefer. The victory earned Carter (24-5) a berth in the quarterfinals today, when he will meet Trinity’s Tristan Buxton.
“De’Adrian has worked hard to get where he is,” Baldwin coach Mike Bilbie said. “It’s not a fluke that he’s the No. 4 seed in the bracket. ”
Qualifying in the 106-pound weight class will not be easy with the 20-man bracket including two returning PIAA place-winners: Franklin Regional’s Devin Brown and North Hills’ Gage Curry. Brown won a PIAA Class AA title at Saegertown last season. Curry placed fourth in the state in Class AAA.
“The battle is for third,” Bilbie said. “If he continues to wrestle well, he can be a state qualifier.”
Carter is one of two seniors in the 106-pound weight class.
“We’re using that to our advantage,” Bilbie said. “He’s a little bit bigger and stronger than a lot of the other kids being that he’s a senior.”
There were no big upsets in the opening round, but there were three key scratches. Latrobe sophomore Ethan McCoy, No. 4 seed at 120, did not make weight. McCoy’s teammate Ethan Smith, the No. 6 at 145, pulled out with bronchitis. Franklin Regional freshman Gus Solomon, No. 9 seed at 120, scratched with a shoulder injury. McCoy was the only wrestler seeded among the top four at his weight who did not advance to quarterfinals tonight.
Franklin Regional and Belle Vernon each had eight wrestlers earn quarterfinal berths, while Kiski Area and North Allegheny had seven. Latrobe and Canon-McMillan had six advance.