PITTSBURGH – It was all set up for a fantastic finish for Cody Wiercioch.
The 170-pound wrestler from Canon-McMillan High School was slated as the final bout for the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic Sunday at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Fieldhouse.
And the Pennsylvania Team he was wrestling on had just won two straight bouts to cut the United States Team’s seven-point lead down to one, 19-18.
All Wiercioch needed was a decision to cap a great rally for the Pennsylvania Team.
Instead, the dual meet turned into a fantastic finish for Zach Beard of Tuttle, Okla., who shocked Wiercioch with a 7-4 decision that sewed up a 22-18 victory for the United States.
In the opener, the WPIAL made it three straight wins over Virginia in the history of this event with a 28-19 victory in which four area wrestlers competed.
Not only did Beard beat Wiercioch, but he did something no other wrestler had been able to do for two scholastic seasons – take him down. Beard, a four-time Oklahoma champion with a 163-9 record, did it three times. The first of two in the first period brought ooohs from the capacity crowd.
Wiercioch’s loss came in the same building he’ll be wrestling in next fall. He committed to Pitt before the high school season began.
“Cody might be a little shell-shocked right now,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Chris Mary, who coached the Pennsylvania and WPIAL teams. “But he’ll bounce back.”
A distraught Wiercioch refused comment after his bout.
Beard led 4-2 after one period, taking Wiercioch down twice, but Wiercioch cut the lead to 4-3 with an escape in the second period. Beard escaped to start the third and put the match away with another takedown with 1:07 left.
“(Beard) was a big underdog, but he did what he had to do to win,” said Mary. “This is a stepping stone for Cody. This doesn’t take away anything he did over the last four years. I’m really proud of him.”
Wiercioch compiled a 168-5 record to go along with his three gold medals and one silver. He has one more event on his schedule: the Dream Team Classic in Chicago next month.
Beard was named Outstanding Wrestling for the United States team and Benton’s Zain Retherford, who upset undefeated Anthony Ashnault (170-0, 4 titles) from South Plainfield, N.J., 1-0 at 138, was OW for Pennsylvania.
Wiercioch’s Canon-McMillan teammate, Connor Schram, nearly pulled the upset of the tournament when he took Joey Dance, a four-time state champion from Christiansburg, Va., into overtime. Dance, who had a 186-14 record in his scholastic career, managed to win the bout by riding out Schram in overtime.
“He’s pretty tough to take down,” said Schram, who is headed for Stanford next fall. “He scrambles really well. I thought I was going to get out, but he had some big lifts.”
After a scoreless first period, Schram was let up to take a 1-0 lead. Dance escaped three seconds into the third period. After a scoreless first overtime, Dance escaped then rode out Schram in the next OT to win it.
“This was an awesome experience,” said Schram, a four-time PIAA finalist and two-time champion. “The best kids in the country are here. I didn’t win, but that happens. We’re all friends here. It was a good way to end my career.”
The WPIAL Team got a 4-2 win by Seth Carr of South Fayette over Sean Badua of Osbourne Park in the first bout and never looked back.
Angelo Broglia of Canon-McMillan also chalked up a win, 3-2, over Justin Williams of Skyline.
Dustin Conti of Jefferson-Morgan lost a 5-2 decision to Zach Epperly of Christiansburg and Garrett Vulcano of Chartiers-Houston fell to Zach Roseberry of Brentsville, 12-3, at 220 pounds.
Carr opened a 2-0 lead on Badua with a takedown with five seconds left in the first period, then got a penalty for an illegal hold in the second period to make it 3-0. Badua finally scored with a takedown with 13 seconds to go, gave Carr an escape but couldn’t take him down.
Conti trailed Epperly 3-2 after one period and couldn’t get that final shot in for a takedown. Epperly, a four-time Virginia champion, got a late takedown on a desperation shot by Conti.
“I knew he was going to be a tough kid,” said Conti. “He was ranked No. 2 in the country. I knew it would be a grinder.”
Roseberry took Vulcano down five times in their bout and turned him for two more in the first period.
Broglia rallied from a 2-1 deficit with a takedown with 46 seconds to go for the one-point win.
“I didn’t even know what the (Wrestling Classic) was until the beginning of this year,” said Broglia. “I found out I was going at the (PIAA) tournament. If you decline something like this, that’s a shame. It’s the most fun I had.”
Four new members were inducted into the Southwestern Pennsylvania hall of Fame: Aaron Gatten, a two-time state champion from Washington High School; George O’Korn, a two-time state champion from Canon-McMillan High School; Greg Jones, a state champion from Greensburg Salem High School; and Jake Herbert, a state champion from North Allegheny and two-time NCAA champ from Northwestern.