CANONSBURG – Connor Schram showed all the right moves in his first three bouts of the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament Friday.
He was quick on his feet, in good position and scored off his opponents’ mistakes.
What might have been the best part about Schram after the three straight victories in the Canon-McMillan gymnasium was the look on his face. He was smiling a lot after the final win.
Maybe that comes with knowing that his senior season at Canon-McMillan is not filled with the pressure of selecting a college. He’s got one of the best in Stanford, an excellent academic institution that has 80-degree weather in January. Schram carries a 4.5 GPA and is third in his class.
The 126-pound senior capped his day with a commanding 11-4 decision over Matt Welliver of Benton in the quarterfinals.
“There is a lot less pressure on me,” said Schram. “Before, I didn’t know where I was going to college. It’s nice to get that out of the way.”
Schram was one of six local wrestlers and four Canon-McMillan athletes to make it to today’s semifinals, which begin at 11:30 a.m. Consolation finals are at 5 p.m., and finals are set for 7:30 p.m.
Blair Academy has a commanding lead in the team standings with 175 points and 10 wrestlers in the semifinals. Canon-McMillan, with four in the championship round and three in the consolation round, is third with 107 points, four behind Moeller.
Chance Marsteller, a junior at Kennard-Dale, and Canon-McMillan senior Cody Wiercioch remain on a collision course at 170 pounds. Marsteller and Wiercioch, ranked 1-2 in the country at that weight by Intermat, each won three bouts on the first day.
Marsteller opened with a 25-9 technical fall over Jacob Robb of Kittanning, then followed it with a pin in 39 seconds of Mac Oberschelp of Peters Township. He disposed of Idris White of Father Judge in the same way, a pin in 2:39, to reach the semifinals.
Wiercioch had two pins in a combined 66 seconds to get to the quarterfinals, where he beat Noah Wilps of Chartiers Valley by an 18-3 technical fall. Marsteller and Wiercioch each own two PIAA gold medals. Wiercioch has made three trips to the Powerade finals and Marsteller two.
Schram has one of the more difficult semifinal bouts, taking on Ryan Diehl, a senior from Trinity of District 3 who won a Class AA state title last season.
“He’s very good,” Schram said. “I wrestled him when I was 6, and I practiced with him at some camps a few years ago.”
Schram opened the tournament with a pin in 23 seconds of Will Chillinsky of Hempfield, followed it with a 17-1 technical fall over Nick Standefer of Baylor, Tenn., and capped it with the win over Welliver.
“The goals are the same as every year,” said Schram, who is a three-time PIAA medal-winner and won a state title as a freshman. “I’m down to the right weight. I was pretty high at 132 (at the start of the season), and the kids are pretty big there. I’ll wrestle 133 in college.”
He also will have some company at Stanford. His parents plan to rent a house for the wrestling season near the school so they can watch him wrestle.
“Hopefully, it will be far enough away,” he said with a smile.
Joining Schram and Wiercioch in the semifinals are teammates Alex Campbell, who had a 1-0 win over Shaun Heist of Parkland at 220, and Dalton Macri, who stopped Ron Perry of Solanco, 9-2, in the quarterfinals.
Garrett Vulcano (195) of Chartiers-Houston and Brent Blacharczyk (182) of McGuffey each earned a spot in the semifinals with a pin in the quarters. Vulcano’s came against Matt Butler of Connellsville in 2:51, and Blacharczyk’s was against Josh Colello of Cedar Cliff in 1:07.
“I’ve just slowed my wrestling down more and concentrated on doing the good stuff,” said Vulcano. “I don’t try to force anything.”
Vulcano takes on Jake Hart of Hampton, a defending Powerade champion and a state runner-up last season, and Blacharczyk has Addison Knepshield of Blair Academy, a state qualifier last year.
“I’m in the same spot I was in last year,” said Blacharczyk, “when I choked in the semis. But it feels good to get to this point. I’ve done a lot of hard work and conditioned hard.”