The trip from Fort Cherry High School to Waynesburg University is about an hour.
For Sam Guidi, the transformation of his wrestling from Fort Cherry to Waynesburg has taken a lot longer.
Strong, physical and agile, Guidi enjoyed a successful career at Fort Cherry, winning two WPIAL titles and one regional title, and placing twice in his final two state tournaments. He caught the eye of Yellow Jackets head coach Ron Headlee, who has stabled a number of WPIAL wrestlers on the Yellow Jackets’ roster.
Guidi’s first year adjusting to the college style was daunting. He went 7-7 and did not compete in the postseason. This year, Guidi has raised his record to 19-7, which includes a technical fall victory over Brad Haney in Waynesburg’s win over Washington & Jefferson Wednesday. Guidi’s optimism, and expectations, have risen from last year.
“My freshman year was tough,” said Guidi, a sophomore who wrestles at 165 pounds. “I learned a lot, like practicing harder. I’m learning how to wrestle in college. I’ve gotten a lot better on my feet, and I’m not giving up easy takedowns.”
Guidi leads the Yellow Jackets with five technical falls this season, which is unusual for him because he thinks of himself more as a pinner.
“I think I teched only four or five kids in high school,” he said. “It makes for good conditioning. I’m on the mat a lot, maybe more than I like to be.”
Guidi is learning how to be in better position, how to improve on his defense and how to pick up on the nuance of college wrestling tactics.
“I’ve gotten a lot better on my feet, not giving up easy takedowns,” he said. “I’ve tightened things up. In college, wrestling on the edge of the mat is so different. I’m learning to wrestle through all the situations.”
Guidi has five shutouts and won three other matches in which he allowed just one point. He went 5-2 in the Washington & Jefferson Invitational, taking fifth place, went 2-2 in the Ohio Northern Invitational and lost a 2-1 decision in the 165-pound finals of the Waynesburg Invitational.
“He’s made good adjustments this year,” said Headlee. “He’s really come a long way. He is more patient with his (attack). He fights through and fights stuff off. He’s tough to score on from bottom and is getting better on top.”
The technical fall over Haney was Guidi’s sixth victory in a row, a good sign that he’s wrestling his best as the postseason approaches. The revamped NCAA Division III Regional Tournament will be held at Ohio Northern University March 1-2 and the national championships will be in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 15-16. The top three wrestlers from the regional advance to the national tournament, which is a change from last year, when only the winner of the weight class and a possible wild card made it.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “The goal is to be in the top three at regionals so I can go to nationals.”