Extra video work pays off for Highlanders

January 16, 2013
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
McGuffey’s Brent Blacharczyk turns Waynesburg’s Thad McGilton in the 220-pound bout during Wednesday night’s match. Blacharczyk had a pin in 42 seconds. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
McGuffey’s Mercedes Pettigrew is flipped by Waynesburg’s Shawn Wilson in the 126-pound match. Wilson won with a pin in 4:43. Order a Print

CLAYSVILLE – While his wrestlers were hammering away in the Tri-County Athletic Directors Association Wrestling Tournament over the weekend, Mark Caffrey had his staff film the bouts of Waynesburg wrestlers.

Caffrey, the Highlanders head coach, knew he would be getting a team in Waynesburg that was wrestling well, and McGuffey desperately needed a win to earn a berth in the WPIAL Class AAA Team Tournament.

Whatever secrets McGuffey found about Waynesburg were closely guarded, but the Highlanders used the information to their benefit Wednesday night in Claysville during a 42-18 rout that sewed up second place in Section 4A.

Trinity, McGuffey and Waynesburg finished tied for second place in the section with 3-2 records, necessitating the WPIAL’s complex tiebreaking system. Waynesburg could have finished in second place simply by winning seven bouts no matter the outcome of the dual meet with McGuffey. The Raiders won four.

McGuffey will take on the Section 4B champion Hopewell Wednesday in the battle for the Section 4 title. Canon-McMillan, which eliminated Trinity for the postseason with a 67-9 romp, finished first in Section 4A and wrestles the second-place team from Section 4B, West Allegheny. The Big Macs will host Wednesday’s doubleheader.

Waynesburg took third place in Section 4A and will wrestle the third-place finisher in Section 4B, Montour, to round out the five qualifiers from the section for the team tournament. A site has not been determined for that match until the WPIAL releases the brackets, which should happen today.

“I was concerned about them,” said Caffrey of Waynesburg. “They were wrestling well. But the last two, three weeks, I can’t say I saw anything wrong with my team’s work habits.”

Waynesburg was coming off two strong performances, a thrilling 38-28 victory over Trinity and a second-place finish in the Tri-County Tournament, in which the Raiders had three champions.

McGuffey jumped out to a 30-0 lead after the dual meet began at 170, getting two decisions, a forfeit and three straight pins, one each from Brent Blacharczyk at 220, Austin Johnson at heavyweight and Gage Nicolella at 106.

“It was a great team effort,” said Caffrey. “Our kids were hungry to get back to the postseason.”

McGuffey hasn’t been in the WPIAL Team Tournament in five years and this is the first time the Highlanders made under Caffrey, who is in his third go-around as head coach there, since 2003.

Waynesburg finally broke McGuffey’s six-bout winning streak when A.C. Headlee took a 7-0 decision from Aaron Harris at 113, but the Raiders needed pins. Waynesburg would get two in the final six bouts – one each by Shaun Wilson at 126 and Bo Hampson at 152 – but McGuffey would get three decisions in that span. The most important came at 132, where Erik Whitfield stopped Terry Victor, 2-1, to give the Raiders a 27-point lead with only four bouts remaining.

“We just didn’t show up,” said Waynesburg head coach Joe Throckmorton. “That’s my fault. I’m not real happy about that right now.”

McGuffey began the dual meet season with a 36-30 loss to Trinity so battling back to earn a postseason position was satisfying.

“Brent Blacharczyk talked to the kids before this match,” Caffrey said. “He said he wanted to get into the playoffs. They took his lead. We started fast and held on at the end.”

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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