Canon-McMillan, Belle Vernon Area and Mt. Lebanon each had two wrestlers advance to Saturday's Class AAA WPIAL/Southwest Region finals last weekend at Canon-McMillan High School, but the three schools met with different fates.
The Big Macs celebrated two titles, the Leopards had one champ and one runner-up and the Blue Devils came home with a pair of silver medals.
Solomon Chishko and Dalton Macri won titles for Canon-McMillan. Both turned in impressive performances.
Chishko (23-3) became the 24th wrestler in WPIAL history to win four titles with a 9-4 victory against Franklin Regional's Josh Maruca (36-5) in the 145-pound final.
"It's an awesome feeling to be in such an elite group," Chishko said. "I've looked up to wrestlers such as [Franklin Regional graduate] Nico Megaludis and [Derry Area graduate] Jimmy Gulibon. Now I've matched their accomplishment."
Chishko now has a chance to become a four-time PIAA place-winner and two-time champion. He placed third in the PIAA twice before winning the 145-pound title last year.
"It's great to be a four-time WPIAL champ, but I still want to focus on that second state title," Chishko said. "That would be a perfect way to end my high school career."
Chishko was happy to share the spotlight with Macri, who claimed the 126-pound title with a 4-3 upset of Hempfield Area's Sam Krivus, a two-time WPIAL champ. The victory avenged Macri's loss to Krivus in the 2012 finals. Macri, a third-place finisher in last year's tournament, scored the winning takedown just before the final buzzer sounded.
"The only thing in my head was to keep attacking," said Macri, when asked about the winning takedown. "I think he was looking for me to go for the throw, so I was able to grab his ankle and get the takedown. I had both arms around him when I heard the ref say 'Time' [to signify the end of the match]."
Macri and Krivus were two of four returning PIAA place-winners in the 126-pound weight class.
"It means even more to me to win such a strong weight class," said Macri, who was named Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. "Everybody says it's the toughest weight class in the tournament."
Belle Vernon's two finalists were Austin Bell and Brendan Hasson.
Bell (37-6) became the second wrestler in Belle Vernon history to win a WPIAL title. He won the 160-pound weight class title with an 8-2 win against North Hills' Jonathan Avon in the title match.
"I've been dreaming about this since I was little," Bell said. "I've been working so hard for so long with this goal in mind. It's an incredible feeling to stand on top of that winners platform."
Bell was seeded No. 3 and Avon was No. 5 in a weight class that didn't have a clear-cut favorite.
"Everyone was equal in this weight class," Bell said. "That's what made me think I could do it. The title means even more knowing that I was in such a strong weight class."
Bell allowed only four points in four matches over the weekend and will make his PIAA debut this weekend.
"I'm chasing the gold right now," Bell said. "I want to finish as high as I can, but the ultimate goal is to win a state title."
Hasson (34-8) advanced to the 120-pound final before dropping an 11-3 major decision to Latrobe's Luke Pletcher (39-0), who claimed his second title in a row.
"It's great to see that Brendan will get a chance to wrestle in Hershey," Belle Vernon coach Tyler Nauman said. "He really deserves that opportunity. He's worked so hard."
Belle Vernon also had a third qualifer, and could have had a fourth if it wasn't for an injury. Jared Verkleeren (20-4) placed third at 145 pounds after a 2-1 double-overtime victory against Central Catholic's Tony Palumbo. Verkleeren's brother, Derek, sustained a serious elbow injury in the consolation semifinals against Kiski Area's Jake Ardelitz and was forced to default.
"It was a freak accident," Nauman said. "Derek was leading, 5-0, and dominating the match when he came down and landed on his elbow. It was immediately obvious that it was a serious injury. He didn't break any bones. It looks like a joint injury, which would be worse than a broken bone."
Mt. Lebanon will also be taking three wrestlers to Hershey. Kellan Stout (33-3) and Zeynul Zaynullayev (33-4) were silver medalists at the WPIAL/Southwest Regional Tournament, while Blue Devils teammate Kevin Kinyua (30-5) placed third. It's the most PIAA qualifiers by a Mt. Lebanon team since 1985, when the Blue Devils took four wrestlers to Hershey.
Both Stout and Zaynullayev had the unfortunate task of facing a returning champion. Stout lost, 5-1, in the 182-pound final to Latrobe's Zack Zavatsky, who claimed his third title. Zaynullayev dropped a 5-2 decision to Kiski Area's Shane Kuhn, who claimed his second consecutive heavyweight title.
"We had three kids seeded among the top four in their weight classes and all three qualified [by finishing among the top three]," Mt. Lebanon coach Bill Lewis said. "We're very proud of the accomplishment of all three."
The PIAA tournament begins today at the Giant Center in Hershey.