South Fayette wrestling short-handed for C-H tournament
J.J. Walker tries to turn West Branch’s Conor Meyers in the PIAA Class AA Team Tournament in February. Walker will be one of a dozen wrestlers not participating at the Chartiers-Houston Wrestling Tournament because he’ll be playing in the Lions’ state semifinal football playoff game against Hickory.
Joe Tuscano / Observer-Reporter
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If Rick Chaussard wants to check up on his South Fayette High School wrestlers this week, then he has to go to football practice.
That’s where a dozen of them can be found, preparing for a PIAA Class AA semifinal football game against Hickory Saturday.
It’s convenient for Chaussard, too. Not only is he the wrestling coach, but also the middle school coach and statistician for the Lions’ football program. Since wrestling practice began two weeks ago, Chaussard has been trying to divide his time between both programs. It’s been quite a challenge.
“How do you do it?” Chaussard asked, “Very carefully.”
The Lions will be at the season-opening Chartiers-Houston Wrestling Tournament, but in fewer numbers and under different coaching on Saturday. Chaussard will be at the football game against Hickory and his assistant coaches – Ron Totterdale, Josh Mollica and Stephen Chaussard – will handle the team on the final day of the wrestling tournament.
“It’s really not as bad as it might seem,” said Chaussard of splitting his time. “I go to wrestling practice after school, then I go to football practice and do what needs to be done.”
So far, only one dual meet, a Section 1-A match against Carlynton, has had to be moved. If the Lions defeat Hickory and make it to the state championship game in Hershey, a section match against Avella would have to be rescheduled.
“What helps us this year is that we didn’t schedule a (wrestling) tournament over Christmas break,” Chaussard said. “So the football players can get about 2 1/2 weeks before January hits.”
South Fayette has a strong team – some believe strong enough to win the WPIAL Class AA title – and winning the section tournament will be critical in receiving a good seed for the WPIAL Team Tournament. Last season, the Lions fell to Burrell in the WPIAL finals. It was the seventh straight championship for the Bucs, a WPIAL record.
Three of the better South Fayette wrestlers playing football now are seniors: Grant Fetchet, who went 37-12 and was a state qualifier at 152 last season; Jared Walker, who placed seventh in the state with a 34-9 record at 160; and Zach Walker, a WPIAL runner-up with a 32-7 record at 195. That’s a combined 103 wins.
Add to that six other starters: sophomore Jasper Wolfe (22-11); sophomore Shane Ging (27-21); senior Bryce Christoff (9-14); junior Brett Beltz, who is a transfer from Keystone Oaks; senior Spencer Girman and junior Jeremy Carter, who are in their first season of varsity wrestling.
So what does that leave for the Chartiers-Houston Tournament?
“We’ll have six wrestlers there,” Chaussard said.
Action begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday in this two-day event at the C-H gym. Semifinals are at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and finals are at 4 p.m.
Seven wrestlers return to defend their titles: Connor Foust (113) of Butler; Ty Buckiso (132) and Italo Merante (138) of Peters Township; Nick Gavazzi (145) of Charleroi; D.J. Wilding (160) of Upper St. Clair; Ryan Hannon (182) of Butler; and Jake Beistel (Hvy) of Southmoreland.
Butler edged South Fayette by one-half point for the team title last season and Peters Township was third, five points back.
“It’s a good tournament,” Chaussard said. “We’re doing this week by week. We didn’t want to withdraw from the Chartiers-Houston Tournament because every weekend is booked in January. There was no place to make it up.”