BRIDGEVILLE – Running for dozens of miles at 6 a.m., the countless hours on the stationary bike, and even more hours watching film paid off in a big way for Austin McDermitt Saturday night.
The sophomore from Burgettstown got his first win against rival Southmoreland’s Austin Griffiths in seven tries, and it made McDermitt a WPIAL champion and the Outstanding Wrestler in the Class AA tournament at Chartiers Valley High School.
McDermitt ended the losing streak by rolling to a 9-1 victory and putting himself in position for a possible first-round bye in the Southwest Region Tournament that begins Friday at the War Memorial in Johnstown.
The top seven wrestlers in each weight class advanced.
“I had nothing to lose,” McDermitt said. “This feels great.”
McDermitt was one of six area wrestlers to win WPIAL championships. The others were Nick Gavazzi of Charleroi, who ended a great run by Anthony Welsh when he pinned the Beth-Center freshman in 3:40; Jared Walker of South Fayette, who shut out South Side Beaver’s Connor Payne, 3-0, at 160; Dustin Conti of Jefferson-Morgan, who survived a chippy 7-6 double-overtime win against Mike Fetchet of South Fayette at 170; Garrett Vulcano of Chartiers-Houston, who pinned Zach Walker of South Fayette in 1:27 at 195; and Avella’s Jake Temple, who stopped Cody Jacobs of West Greene 3-1 at 220.
The tournament was marked by a few upsets.
Tanner Sutton of Chartiers-Houston, the top seed at 145 and a defending champion, was shut out, 5-0, by Burrell’s Phil Marra; and top-seeded Jacob Beistel of Southmoreland was pinned by Allen Beattie of Burrell in 5:07 at heavyweight.
The turning point in McDermitt’s match came when he sank a headlock for a five-point move that put him up 7-0 in the third.
“I felt him pressing in and just went for it,” said McDermitt, who raised his record to 33-4. “I was pretty confident after that.”
Gavazzi and Conti remained undefeated, but Gavazzi had the easier time wrapping up his second straight title.
“There is still more work to be done,” Gavazzi said. “Last year, I lost my focus, but now I know what I have to do. I want to be on that podium in Hershey.”
Conti and Fetchet battled hard, at times getting into what appeared to be a slapping duel. Conti gave a thumbs down to his wrestling.
“I didn’t wrestle as good as I could,” said Conti. “It’s exciting to win. There’s a little bit of pressure (being undefeated). That other stuff was heat of the moment. We were both physical, but it was nothing serious.”
Like Conti, Sutton didn’t have his best match. Unlike Conti, he couldn’t prevail under those circumstances.
“He’ll be fine,” said C-H head coach Bill Sutton. “He’s not happy right now. It’s not a good day for him. It’s a grind, and it’s tough. But everyone else goes through the same grind. You gotta have a short memory.”
Vulcano lost to Conti in last year’s finals at 170. This year, at 195, he breezed through the bracket with two pins and a technical fall.
“I get my name on the wall of our wrestling room for being a WPIAL champion,” said Vulcano (39-2). “Taking second last year was not bad, but you want to win every match. I look at it that I advanced and got a good spot in next week’s tournament.”
Temple has been on a roll in the postseason, winning his last 28 bouts.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t stop,” said Temple, who is 34-1 with the only to Vulcano in early January. “I’m trying not to make mistakes. If you do, you have to come back from that, so you can’t let one mistake ruin the whole match.”
Payne has trouble with wrestlers whose last name is Walker. He lost to Jared Walker last night and to Drew Walker of North Hills in the Chartiers-Houston Tournament. Payne did beat Jared Walker 5-4 in last week’s Section 1 Tournament.
“I wrestled (Payne) in last year’s section tournament, and it was 4-3 before I was able to pin him,” said Jared Walker. “He beat me last week. I knew what I had to work on for the next time. He took me down two times. He has a very good takedown and I knew he would be looking for this time.”
Devin Fallenstein of Ringgold was the lone local winner in the Section 2-AAA Tournament at Baldwin Saturday night. Fallenstein beat Dmitri Wilding of Upper St. Clair, 3-1, for the 170-pound title.
Peters Township sent five wrestlers into the finals but each came out with second-place finishes.