JOHNSTOWN – John Demaske stood at the center of the wrestling mat, anxiously waiting for the decision by the referees, who were huddled at the scorer’s table.
The officials were discussing whether the pin by Jefferson-Morgan’s Demaske that was called a few moments earlier came before or after the buzzer sounded to end the second period.
Standing with Demaske was Garrett Thomas of Bedford, who had to be wondering what type of purgatory he was going to enter if the referees decided in Demaske’s favor. Thomas, you see, was the top seed in the 126-pound weight class.
After coming to a decision, the referees walked back to the mat and referee Sean Kearney told the two to shake hands because the match was over.
Demaske had his pin and one of the biggest victories in his varsity wrestling career. That it came in the quarterfinals of the PIAA Class AA Southwest Region Tournament in Johnstown Friday just made it more special.
“I thought I had the pin,” said Demaske. “I was just praying that we didn’t have to start over.”
Demaske advanced to today’s semifinals at 11 a.m. and is one win away from a trip to the finals, which will be held at 5 p.m.
The top five wrestlers in each weight class advance to next week’s PIAA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Twelve area wrestlers advanced to the semifinals. They are Seth Carr (113), Jared Walker (160) and Mike Fetchet (170) of South Fayette; Demaske and Dustin Conti (170) of Jefferson-Morgan; Tanner Sutton (145) and Garrett Vulcano (195) of Chartiers-Houston; Austin McDermitt (106) of Burgettstown; Nick Gavazzi (138) of Charleroi; Anthony Welsh (138) of Beth-Center; Avella’s Jake Temple (220) and West Greene’s Cody Jacobs (220).
Demaske will take a 25-3 record into his semifinals bout with Colin Day of Meyersdale, who knocked off South Fayette’s Shane Ging 11-2 in the quarterfinals. Day is a third-place finisher in District 5 with a 37-8 record.
“I think (Demaske) pulled the big upset of the tournament so far,” said Jefferson-Morgan head coach Scott Rhodes. “I don’t consider it an upset. John has the ability to beat him.”
This tournament is turning out a lot better for Demaske than last year’s, when Demaske came down with pneumonia, was nearly nine pounds overweight just days before the regional tournament began and finished sixth after a 5-2 loss to South Fayette’s Seth Carr.
“That was tough,” Demaske said. “It was hard to cut weight (with pneumonia).”
Demaske came out of last week’s WPIAL Championships as a third-place finisher but as Thomas found out, position means little in this tournament.
Demaske set the tone of the match with a first-period takedown, then attacked Thomas while on top in the second.
“We wrestled in the Bedford Tournament, and he pinned me with a cradle,” said Demaske. “The first takedown I got was big. I knew I had to get the first takedown in this match.”
Conti moved on after a 5-1 decision over Zack Pinkas of Forest Hills. The only nervous moment came when Conti took Pinkas hard to the mat and Pinkas hit his head. Pinkas took injury time but continued.
“I was a little worried,” said Conti, who won the 170-pound title in this tournament last year. “When I saw they didn’t call anything, I wasn’t worried.”
South Fayette’s strong showing began with Carr. He reached the semifinals with a 13-3 decision over Blake Dunlap of Chestnut Ridge at 113, Jared Walker did it with a 4-2 win over Corey Hazel of Penns Valley, and Fetchet pinned Kory Kylor of Mt. Union in 3:54.
“I definitely worked harder this year,” said Carr. “I pushed myself more over the summer. Wrestling in the Bedford Tournament definitely helped. I saw what type of competition I had.”
Among the highlights: Sutton picked up two wins yesterday, the second a 4-0 decision over Drew Gartland of Northern Bedford. Top-seeded Noah Tarr of Blairsville waits in the semifinals.
Vulcano won by 19-4 technical fall over Phillip Kyle of Mt. Union and takes on Tyler Oliver of United in the semifinals. Second-seed James Stodart of Moshannon Valley was upset by Zac Croyle of Kittanning in the quarters.
Temple and Jacobs won by nearly identical scorers. Temple’s was 6-2 over Seth McClendon of Penn Cambria and Jacobs was 6-3 over Jacob Ludwig of Moshannon Valley. Temple and Jacobs can only meet in the finals.
Welsh made the tournament a lot easier with a pin of Nick Kusich of Avella in 5:05 in the quarters. Welsh, a freshman, meets top-seeded Sean Heggs of Juniata in the semifinals.