Garrett Vulcano knows the secret to wrestling well in the Southwest Regional tournament, and he doesn’t mind sharing.
After all, this is a tournament frought with bad memories for him, and he’s worked hard to figure out how to get past that this season.
“You just have to wrestle smarter,” said Vulcano, the Chartiers-Houston senior who, barring injury, is preparing for the next-to-last wrestling event of his varsity career. “If you give up stupid points, it can really hurt your chances. Everyone is good up there, and kids are harder to score on.”
Vulcano is one of 98 District 7 (WPIAL) wrestlers who will make their way to the War Memorial in Johnstown for the two-day regional event. First-round action gets under way at 1 p.m. today with the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Semifinals are 11 a.m. Saturday and finals are at 5 p.m.
The top five wrestlers in each weight class advance to the PIAA Championships, which run March 7-9 at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Vulcano, who set the career victory record at Chartiers-Houston last month and now sits at 149-37, enters the first round of the region tournament coming off two pins and a technical fall in winning a WPIAL championship. Vulcano gets a bye in the first round of the tournament and takes on the winner of the bout between Eli Holt (27-13) of Mt. Pleasant and Phillip Kyle (24-11) of Mount Union.
“(The regional tournament) has been a bad tournament for me,” Vulcano said. “Nothing good has happened there wrestling-wise.”
As a 170-pound junior, Vulcano lost a 3-2 decision to John Blankenship of United 3-2 at the buzzer in ultimate tiebreaker and had to battle back through the consolation round to finish third. Two years ago, Vulcano was pinned by Cody Wiercioch, who was then wrestling at Charleroi, in the semifinals, lost a 3-2 decision to Dylan Demain of Bentworth, 3-2, in the consolation round and eliminated from the postseason after a 7-3 loss to Tyler Dybert of Chestnut Ridge. Vulcano went two-and-out as a 145-pound freshman.
“Every mistake adds up,” Vulcano said. “It’s always a tougher tournament. District 6 (wrestlers) had a (week off) so they are going to be fresh. To get through the WPIAL is really tough.”
Vulcano said it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity and not be satisfied with just qualifying for the next event.
“The take seven from the WPIALs to region,” he said. “You can still mess up and get there. I know what I have to do. This is a whole new week, and you have to wrestle well.”
Jason Nolf of Kittanning and Dakota DesLauriers of Burrell are looking for their third regional title. Jefferson-Morgan Dustin Conti is chasing his second and is one of four undefeated WPIAL wrestlers in the event. Nolf (38-0, 132), DesLauriers (29-0, 182) and Charleroi’s Nick Gavazzi (32-0, 138) is the other wrestler with a perfect record.
Justin Patrick (30-3, 113) of Ligonier Valley and Cody Law (27-0, 160) of Forest Hills are the other two returning champions. Patrick is coming off his third straight district title.