HERHSEY – Canon-McMillan needed a spark, so Steve LaFrance obliged.
The Big Macs were holding a 9-6 lead over Spring Grove in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA Wrestling Team Tournament Thursday at the Giant Center and about to have the dual meet tied after the 195-pound bout. That’s because LaFrance was trailing Andrew Melhorn, 2-1, with about 25 seconds remaining when LaFrance hip-tossed Melhorn to his back and pinned him at 5:48.
Just like that, everything changed.
LaFrance’s pin was followed by pins from Alex Campbell at 220 and Angelo Broglia at heavyweight, and Canon-McMillan was on its way to a 42-22 victory. Canon-McMillan (16-0), the defending state team champion, moves into today’s quarterfinals against Erie McDowell (13-1), a 38-17 winner over Downingtown East at 2 p.m. today. Semfinals are at 8 p.m. and finals are at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I was losing so I had to hit something,” said LaFrance, a senior. “It was there, so I took it.”
The victory was the fifth straight in this tournament over the past two seasons for the Big Macs. Last year, Canon-McMillan defeated Erie McDowell in the finals. But the match everyone remembers is a 28-25 victory over Central Dauphin in the semifinals, a matchup of the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the state. Central Dauphin won its opener, 33-14, over North Allegheny.
“We wanted to zap their momentum,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Chris Mary. “Steve pulled the trigger in a tight match. That was a very, very scrappy team. But Steve is comfortable on his feet, and he changed the tempo of the match.”
Interestingly, LaFrance fell behind 2-1 in the third period on a penalty point for a second stalling warning. That seemed to set him off and he tossed Melhorn just seconds later.
“I was trying to do it earlier in the match,” said LaFrance. “It might have changed the momentum, but everyone has to do their part. It was big for our momentum.”
Alec Hutchin also had a bout to remember for the Big Macs, and it came at 138 pounds, one bout before the finale. Trailing 6-0 in the third period, Hutchin had his bout with Michael Hartman stopped on a potentially dangerous call. Hutchin lay on the mat in pain and it appeared he might not be able to continue. Mary complained to the referees about the call, but decided to let Hutchin continue rather than pull him.
Hutchin tossed Hartman to his back for a five-point move to tie the bout, 6-6, then got a takedown in overtime to win it, 8-6.
“You always want to protect your wrestler,” said Mary. “The match was in hand, but he wanted to go back out. We matched guts with him.”
Defending state champion Cody Wiercioch gave C-M the 9-6 lead with the first of four pins for the Big Macs. Brendon Price (106) had a major decision and Connor Schram (126) won by technical fall to make it 39-10.
“They are a good team,” said Spring Grove head coach Anthony Miller. “We knew we would be in a battle. You can see why they are ranked where they are ranked.”
Dakota Loughman (132) had the only pin for Spring Grove, which falls to the consolation round against Downingtown East.