HERSHEY – Before this tournament began, wrestling fans who witnessed it thought last year’s 28-25 victory by Canon-McMillan over Central Dauphin in the PIAA Class AAA Team Tournament semifinals was the best dual meet wrestled in the 15-year history of this event.
It had all the drama anyone could ask for: the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the state, great wrestlers on both sides of the mat, and a thrilling finish that could be the fodder for a Hollywood movie.
That was last year.
For those hardy enough to make the trip to Hershey for Saturday’s rematch, they witnessed an even better match.
Canon-McMillan, the defending team champion but wrestling without two key starters, had its greatest moment in this program’s illustrious history when the Big Macs rallied from 12 points down to defeat Central Dauphin, 34-31, at the Giant Center.
The match came down to the final bout – as it should – and Brendon Price won a one-point decision over Zach Elvin, 4-3, to assure a second trophy will keep the first one company in Canon-McMillan’s trophy case.
This dual meet had the top two teams in the state again matching its great talent. Canon-McMillan is the No. 9 team in the country, according to Intermat, and defending PIAA champion Cody Wiercioch is the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the nation at 170 pounds. He is behind Chance Marsteller of Kennard-Dale, but Marsteller is expected to drop to 160 for the individual tournaments.
Central Dauphin appeared to have a better chance of winning this match. The Rams came in having won 121 of the past 122 dual meets and the last six District 3 titles. Canon-McMillan set a WPIAL record this season by becoming the first Class AAA team to win four straight team tournament titles.
The Big Macs did so without one of their best wrestlers in Solomon Chishko, who has not wrestled this season after fracturing his elbow in the a preseason tournament three months ago. Another starter, Malachi Krenzelak, did not wrestle because of an injury, and William Pihiou is just coming back from an injury.
That’s what made this victory so special. Last year, the Big Macs were expected win. This year, they were were the underdogs.
Canon-McMillan’s victory was forged on several key components, but none more important than the awesome display of dominance in the upperweights, where Wiercioch, Alex Campbell and Angelo Broglia provided so many bonus points. Wiercioch had three pins and a technical fall, Campbell pinned his way through the tournament and Broglia won three times by fall.
More impressive, this part of the lineup was key to come-from-behind victories over Spring Grove, Erie McDowell and Easton. Sealing the deal in these matches were equally strong performances by impressive lightweights Brendon Price, Dalton Macri and Connor Schram.
Price’s 4-3 decision over Zach Elvin in the final bout of the Central Dauphin match not only earned him a free ride around the arena mat, first by head coach Chris Mary, then by his teammates, but assured his name always will be mentioned when Big Mac fans debate the greatest victories in the program’s history.
Mary has cemented his spot in the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame after guiding the Big Macs to two straight team tournament titles and two other team championships awarded at the individual tournament. Yes, the PIAA awards two team trophies each season. The Big Macs will enter the individual tournament with a great chance of repeating, especially if Chishko is healthy enough to return.
With the bulk of this team graduating after this season – the Big Macs lose nearly all the upperweights and Schram – it will be difficult to achieve a three-peat.
So it’s best to savor the great memories of this tournament, including Price overcome with emotion and crying in the arms of Mary after his win, because there is no guarantee this will happen again.
Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.