HERSHEY – When a team reaches this point in the wrestling season, coaches look for any form of motivation to bring out the best in his wrestlers.
Jason Bainey had a few simple words for West Branch before going onto the Giant Center floor to wrestle South Fayette in the first round of the PIAA Class AA Team Tournament Thursday.
“I told them, ‘Do you want to get up at 5:30 a.m. or 8:30?’” Bainey said.
The threat of the early wakeup call today appeared to do the trick as West Branch won big where it had to and stayed away from any devastating losses in racking up a hard-fought 33-26 victory over South Fayette.
The loss means South Fayette wrestlers will make this morning’s weigh-in with bleary eyes. The Lions wrestle Saucon Valley in the 8 a.m. consolation round. West Branch, the District 6 champion, takes on Reynolds, the District 10 champion, in the quarterfinals at noon.
Burrell, which has won seven straight WPIAL championships, also will be up early after losing its first-round match to Bermudian Springs, 34-29. The Bucs wrestle Western Wayne.
South Fayette, the WPIAL runner-up, fell to 10-2 for the season. West Branch moved to 25-2 and is one win from tying the school’s record for wins in a season, which was set last year.
“When we got behind early, we needed to not to get pinned, and we needed to get pins,” said South Fayette head coach Rick Chaussard. “It was the only way to get back in the match.”
Unfortunately for the Lions, there was too much of the former and not enough of the latter. The Lions gave up four pins and got only one.
“A couple of weeks ago, we wrestled a team where we won eight matches and lost six,” Bainey said. “But we were pinned five times and barely won. I told our kids that there was no reason to get pinned other than a lack of fight.”
South Fayette fell behind 21-7, thanks to two of those pins by West Branch. John Hayles stuck SF’s Ben Previte in 5:39 and Parker Bumbarger pinned the Lions’ Scott Rzepecki in 5:44 to give the Warriors an 18-7 lead. Clayton Green’s 5-1 decision over Brandon Keck at 145 made it a 14-point edge.
South Fayette clawed back to take a 26-24 lead when the Lions won three straight decisions, one each from Grant Fetchet (152), J.J. Walker (160) and Mike Fetchet (170). They got their only pin of the dual meet by Jared Walker, who stuck Trey English in 2:38 at 220 pounds to give SF a 26-24 lead. Morgan Selepeck stopped South Fayette’s run by pinning Bryce Christoff at heavyweight.
English was in for Reynold Mains, who was out with an injury. Mains has a 22-1 record. “Mains got banged up in practice,” Bainey said. “If we had to use him, we would have. But we took a chance with our 106 pounder.”
And Dustin Deliman responded with a 3-0 decision over Jason Wolfe to seal the dual meet.
South Fayette also had injury problems as Mike Carr was injured in practice and not available at his normal spot of 126. West Branch’s early lead forced Chaussard to bump his heavier weights up to look for pins.
“I thought we had to do that to have a shot in the match,” said Chaussard. We’ve talked about bonus points the past couple weeks. They got them and we didn’t. That’s why they won.”