BRIDGEVILLE – At times, it seemed more like a dogfight than a wrestling match.
Canon-McMillan and Franklin Regional loaded up their best shots and each one packed a wallop and did its damage.
Canon-McMillan got the final blow delivered when Dalton Macri pinned Don Turner in one minute at 120 pounds to send the Big Macs into WPIAL history.
Canon-McMillan (15-0) became the first Class AAA team to win four straight WPIAL Team Tournament championships by defeating Franklin Regional, 31-26, Saturday night at Chartiers Valley High School.
North Allegheny is the only other Class AAA team to win three in a row, from 1986-88. Burrell extended its Class AA record with a seventh straight title by beating South Fayette, 35-30, earlier in the day.
The top three teams in each classification advanced to the PIAA Team Tournament, which gets under way Monday with first-round matches. Canon-McMillan won’t wrestle again until Thursday afternoon in the Giant Center, the prize for being the District 7 champion. Canon-McMillan is the defending state team champion, winning the individual team tournament title last March and capturing the tournament title last February.
But the focus was on the WPIAL trophy yesterday.
“We made history,” said Connor Schram, who won by technical fall at 132. “We went 4-for-4.”
The win was in doubt until the last bout, Macri’s pin. The lead changed hands five times and the dual meet was tied twice. Franklin Regional’s final lead was in the 13th bout, when Kyle Berk won a wild 10-8 decision over Josh Minor to give the Panthers a 26-25 lead.
That win came right after Brendon Price took a 15-0 technical fall from Andrew Marshall at 106 to put C-M up, 25-23.
“We wanted this so badly for the kids,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Chris Mary. “There were 14 heroes out there. My assistant Glenn Haynes set the matchups. He does so much studying for these matches.”
Mary made two surprise moves in the lineup: He inserted Cody Wiercioch at 195 pounds – he’s normally at 170 – and Wiercioch responded the way he usually does: with a big win. Wiercioch pinned Justin Rose in 2:27 to pull C-M to within three, 20-17.
The other move was switching 220-pounder Alex Campbell with heavyweight Angelo Broglia. Broglia responded with a 6-3 victory over Brett Zanotto at 220 and Campbell held Luke Fleck, one of the top heavyweights in the WPIAL, to just a 3-2 ultimate tiebreaker decision.
“The bonus points we saved were so important,” said Mary.
Franklin Regional (17-3) built a 20-8 lead by pounding the Big Macs through the middle. Tyler Smith had a technical fall over Nick Oberhaus at 138, Josh Maruca shut out Alex Hutchin, 6-0, at 145, and Josh Shields took a 13-4 major decision from William Pihiou, wrestling for the second time since missing three weeks with a shoulder injury.
“I told our guys before it started that I believed we could win,” said Franklin Regional head coach Eric Mauser. “We wanted to stop them from winning their fourth team tournament championship. I thought we could win nine matches. It is what it is, but we had a couple of opportunities.”
Sam Minor stopped the run with a 10-5 decision over Brandon Yant at 160.
The two teams traded decisions and Wiercioch went out to begin Canon-McMillan’s comeback.
“We needed (that pin) to get the team up,” Wiercioch said. “It means the whole season. This is what we’re here to do: win a WPIAL championship and win a state championship.”
Macri put the finishing touches on the dual meet with the pin. The Canon-McMillan bench erupted as did the large crowd of fans in the stands.
“I just shrunk (the situation) down to like I was going into the practice room,” Macri said. “I wrestled just like it was practice. It was an uphill and downhill match. A lot of kids pulled off big wins. Everyone will see that I wrestled the last match, but it was a total team effort.”