Joe Tuscano's Sports Column
Many heroes for C-M in title runs
Years from now, when the idea takes hold at the school to honor the members of the Canon-McMillan wrestling teams who rewrote the record books and launched the program intto the state’s elite, make sure there are enough chairs.
During this exquisite run to four consecutive WPIAL Team Tournament championships – a record for a Class AAA program – these Big Macs had quite a few heroes who kept the streak alive.
Dalton Macri is the latest to make the list.
His pin of Don Turner in one minute in the final bout of Saturday’s dual meet with Franklin Regional gave Canon-McMillan a thrilling 31-26 victory, its record fourth straight WPIAL Class AAA title, and set off a raucous celebration by the large C-M contingent that packed the stands at Chartiers Valley High School.
It was a sweet capper for Macri, who didn’t wrestle in the first WPIAL championship because Colton Shorts and Connor Schram were in the way. Now, Macri will be known for possibly the most meaningful pin in the program’s team history.
But don’t forget Zach Thomas’ pin.
When the Big Macs were trying for their first WPIAL team title in this string, Thomas saved the day with a pin. In the 2010 semifinals, Thomas went onto the mat with a 4-12 record and pinned Matt Lago of Penn Trafford in 2:21 to give the Big Macs a 28-18 lead with two bouts remaining. They hung on for a 28-27 win that set up a meeting with Kiski for the championship.
After the original date for the finals was snowed out, the dual meet took place at a different site – Fox Chapel High School – and had a new hero.
Hull, a heavyweight, was suffering from a shoulder injury and was not expected to wrestle. But destiny seemed to be with the Big Macs. Incredibly, the starting bout of the match was drawn at 103, meaning heavyweight would be the final bout wrestled. Had a heavier weight been chosen for the starting point, Hull probably would not have been used.
When the Big Macs reached that point, they led Kiski, 29-27, so Hull decided to wrestle. He decisioned Steve Calderone 3-2 to give C-M the title.
The next two title matches had less drama. Canon-McMillan downed Kiski, 46-20, in the semifinals and Latrobe, 36-19, in the finals of the 2011 tournament. Last season, Canon-McMillan rolled to a 52-9 win over Greensburg Salem in the semifinals and a 53-12 rout of North Allegheny in the finals.
In Friday’s semifinals, Josh Minor’s pin of Mitch Nagy at 113 assured the Big Macs a 36-24 victory over Kiski and set up the dramatic showdown against Franklin Regional. Minor entered the match with a sub.-.500 record in his dozen trips to the mat. Nagy was a 20-match winner.
The most recent title should be the most satisfying for the Big Macs because of the number of injuries they had to contend with to win it. Solomon Chishko, a third-place medalist in last year’s PIAA Individual Championships, has not wrestled this season after fracturing his elbow in the preseason Super 32 Tournament in North Carolina two weeks before the first practice date of the high school season.
Malachi Krenzelak has missed the past three weeks with an injury and William Pihiou just returned to the lineup after missing two weeks. So the Big Macs depended on Josh Minor, Nick Konyk and Nick Oberhaus to fill in while the others healed.
Now, Canon-McMillan will try to defend the two PIAA team titles it won last year. The Big Macs had one of the biggest wins in the program’s history against Central Dauphin in last year’s state semifinals in Hershey. They went on to beat Erie McDowell in the finals to win the tournament, then made it a clean sweep by winning the team title at the PIAA Individual Championships a month later. Yes, the PIAA still gives out two team titles each season.
If Chishko and Krenzelak can’t go, and Pihiou can’t shake the rust off in time, then the Big Macs will have a difficult time repeating as team champions. But, as we’ve seen in the past, it’s not a good idea to bet against this team.
Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.