MONONGAHELA – To the casual wrestling fan, Tanner Sutton’s quest to become the first wrestler in the history of the Tri-County Athletic Directors Association tournament seemed a done deal.
Sutton, a senior from Chartiers-Houston, only had to get past Shane Piper, a sophomore at Waynesburg who began the season with a 2-10 record, to win the 145-pound championship. When Sutton got the first takedown in Saturday afternoon’s bout at Ringgold High School, it seemed even more probable.
Piper, however, was not going to let that happen, battling back to send the match into overtime before winning it with a takedown, 6-4.
“I wrestled him over the summer, and he took me down and let me up,” Piper said of Sutton, who fell to 19-5 on the season.
“I knew what I needed to work on from that. I went into the wrestling room and focused on the stuff I needed to do to get better. Now, I’m beating kids who used to beat me.”
It was Piper’s first tournament title and Sutton will have to settle for three. A.C. Headlee of Waynesburg (113), Tyler Buckiso (126) of Peters Township, Nick Gavazzi (138) of Charleroi, Dustin Conti (182) of Jefferson-Morgan, and Jake Temple (220) of Avella repeated as champions.
Peters Township won the team title with 162 1/2 points and Waynesburg was second with 157 1/2. Canon-McMillan competing without defending state champion Cody Wiercioch and state placewinners Connor Schram and Alex Campbell, was third at 147 1/2 points followed by Chartiers-Houston (146) and Jefferson-Morgan (134 1/2).
Waynesburg and Canon-McMillan each had three champions, Peters Township and Chartiers-Houston had two apiece and Jefferson-Morgan, Trinity, Avella and Charleroi each had one.
Piper, named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestling, evened his record at 12-12 after that 2-10 start. He said he scouted Sutton before the finals.
“I watched him wrestle earlier in the day,” Piper said. “I know he likes to do those funks. Usually in the room, I’m the funkster. I do all the rolls. I wrestled Sean LaVella of Hempfield, and he was real funky.”
The bout was tied 2-2 after one period and each wrestler reversed the other in the second to make it 4-4. Sutton rode Piper through the third period to send it to overtime. Three times, Sutton got in the funk roll but the final time, Piper slipped free for the reversal.
“He lost himself for a minute rolling around,” said C-H head coach Bill Sutton. “Stopping for even a second is long enough to give up the (reversal). I’m sick to my stomach about it, and he’s taking it hard. He’s upset, because he wanted to be a four-timer.”
Conti turned what looked to be a sure loss into victory when he took McGuffey’s Brent Blacharczyk down with just three second left in regulation. Conti took Blacharczyk down six seconds into overtime.
“I was disappointed in my match,” said Conti. “I don’t think my head was in it.”
Headlee dominated the 113-pound class, capping it with a 175-0 technical fall over Zach Swarrow of Beth-Center. Headlee has trained hard in the offseason, but did take time to travel to London to root for Coleman Scott in the Olympics.
“I’ve had a tougher schedule this season, the Beast, Powerade, this tournament,” said Headlee.
Another motivation for Headlee was not qualifying for the state tournament, finishing fourth at 106 in what many thought was the most difficult weight class in the WPIAL Championships.
“The memory of not going to states lights a fire under me,” Headlee said. “Last year, the weight class was tough. It will help me a lot, because it will always be in the back of my mind that I didn’t go to states.”
Peters Township had its best showing in the tournament’s history, crowing three champions, including back-to-back by Buckiso and Italo Merante. Buckiso edged Vince Vahaly of Bentworth, 1-0, at 126 and Merante decisioned Gage Downer of Ringgold, 5-1, at 132.
“It’s a tough tournament,” Buckiso said. “You go into every tournament wanting to win.”
Merante said practicing with Buckiso helps him improve.
“He helps me every day,” said Merante, who like Buckiso is a junior. “I’m not sure how much I influence him. We’re going hard in practice. Both of us expect to do good.”
Temple and Gavazzi pinned their way to titles and Canon-McMillan’s Dalton Macri won all three by technical fall at 120.