HEIDELBERG – The magical part of South Fayette High School’s wrestling season has been the number of “firsts” the program has achieved.
First section title. First time in the WPIAL Team Tournament finals. First time qualifying for the PIAA Team Tournament.
In Saturday afternoon’s WPIAL Class AA Team Tournament finals, the Lions looked like a team making its first appearance in those finals, and the inexperience cost them. They made critical errors, lost devastating decisions at 126, 152 and 106 pounds that were winnable and were defeated by Burrell, 35-30, at Chartiers Valley High School.
Both teams qualified for the PIAA Team Tournament, which begins next week. Chartiers-Houston downed Jefferson-Morgan, 42-30, in the battle for the third, and final, qualifying spot.
“We tried to alleviate the pressure (before the match),” said South Fayette head coach Rick Chaussard, “but it was inevitable that it would be there.”
And it came against a Burrell team that now has won this team title a record-seven consecutive times and been in these finals for 11 consecutive years. The Bucs (15-5) were the more experienced team and wrestled that way.
Nowhere was that more evident than in the very first bout, at 126 pounds. Mike Carr led Damon Greenwald, 12-4, early in the second period but saw the Burrell freshman outscored Carr, 12-3, the rest of the way for a 16-15 decision that ignited an already loud Burrell crowd.
“That gave them the momentum,” said Chaussard. “We gave up eight points in 30 seconds. Nerves were probably a big part of it.”
At one point, Greenwald released Carr for an escape, then got a double-leg takedown when Carr failed to turn to face Greenwald in enough time to defend himself.
“(Greenwald) was in the same situation last week in the Central Catholic Duals and won,” said Burrell head coach Bud Sines, who is retiring after the season. “It was almost exactly the same. He has it in him. We just have to bring it out sooner.”
At 152, J.J. Walker of South Fayette (10-1) appeared ready to take Burrell’s Phil Marra to overtime tied at 3-3. But Marra got a takedown that appeared to surprise Walker with two seconds to go for a 5-3 victory that gave the Buccaneers a 15-6 lead.
“They’ve been here and in Hershey for so many years,” said Chaussard. “It seems like they were born to be here.”
At 106, Jason Roberts got a third-period escape to assure a 3-2 decision over Jason Wolfe that gave Burrell a 17-point lead and put the match out of reach for South Fayette.
“We’ve been here before, and this is South Fayette’s first time,” said Sines. “When we got a big win like (Greenwald’s), then any doubts you might have come to the surface. Our bench gets into it, our fans get into it, the whole community gets into it. So there was pressure on us. We won this for all of Burrell.”
After Corey Falleroni won by a 21-6 technical fall over Jack Previte at 160, Burrell held a 20-6 lead. A pin by Mike Fetchet at 170 and decision by Brad Haney at 182 pulled South Fayette to within five, 20-15. But the Lions forfeited to Dakota DesLauriers and Allen Beattie pinned Bryce Chrystoff at heavyweight to push Burrell’s lead to 32-18 with three bouts left. After Roberts’ win, Burrell simply forfeited the final two to make the deficit five points.
South Fayette takes on the District 6 champion in Hershey Thursday at 4 p.m.
“I explained to the kids that even though we didn’t accomplish our goal, we can still come home from Hershey with some hardware,” Chaussard. “Some of our kids haven’t had that shot. Some of them will get a chance to see what it’s like to wrestle there.”
Chartiers-Houston 42, Jefferson-Morgan 30: Chartiers-Houston won the final three bouts of the match, scoring 13 bout points, to assure its 42-30 victory over Jefferson-Morgan in the third-place bout.
Josh Kraushaar pinned Nathan Wolfe at 220, Garrett Vulcano won a 9-1 major decision over Ian Wolfe at heavyweight and Ben Hritsko pinned Zach Tedrow at 106 to wrap up the win.
Derek Hull (160) and Dylan Shultz-Terling each won by technical fall for the Bucs (11-7).
Brendan Howard (113), John Demaske (126), Jason Miller (138) and Dustin Conti (195) had pins for the Rockets (11-6).