CANONSBURG – When Solomon Chishko went down with a knee injury right before the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament, it left a gaping hole in the Canon-McMillan wrestling lineup.
Chishko is the returning Class AAA state champion at 145 pounds, but he won’t be back until mid-January after having the meniscus removed in his right knee last week. It’s the second straight season he’s missed a large amount of time with an injury. Last year, Chishko missed the regular season with a fractured elbow.
It only made sense that Malachi Krenzelak would step in at that weight, and the senior did not disappoint. He’d been waiting for this moment for some time, sitting out most of last season with a broken back. Krenzelak won three bouts Friday inside the C-M gymnasium, the final one a thrilling 3-2 decision over Sam Florentino of Peters Township that put him in the semifinals of the Powerade tournament.
Krenzelak was one of three wrestlers from Canon-McMillan to make this morning’s (11:30) semifinals. The others were Brendan Price at 113 and Dalton Macri at 126. Consolation finals are at 5 p.m. and the finals are at 7:30 p.m.
Waynesburg’s A.C. Headlee and Phil Mary of Peters Township were the other two local wrestlers to reach the semis, and they are each in Macri’s weight class, 126. Mary gets first shot against Macri and Headlee would meet Macri in the finals if both are successful in the semis.
Krenzelak raised his record to 10-1 with the win over Florentino and gained a measure of satisfaction in helping the Big Macs to fourth place in the team standings. Franklin Regional is first with 143 points, followed by Latrobe at 121, Parkland at 118.5 and Canon-McMillan at 90. Brookville rounds out the top 5 with 85 points.
“Solomon and I weigh in at 145 every match, and I bump up to 152,” said Krenzelak. “I never like to see a teammate out, but it’s nice to wrestle at 145 at Powerade. I feel more comfortable.”
Krenzelak had to handle an enormous amount of pain last year when he cracked two vertebrae in the lumbar (lower) region of his back at the Reno Tournament of Champions in January. He experienced severe pain going through rehabilitation and only received doctor’s clearance right before Halloween.
“My last tournament (last season) was Powerade,” he said. “I can only describe it as the most pain I ever had in my life. I never got comfortable. I couldn’t stand straight for three months. I got my rehab at Bradley Physical Therapy Clinic in Southpointe, and I think I saw a million different doctors.”
Worse, Krenzelak had to watch from the sidelines as the Big Macs went on to one of the greatest finishes in the program’s history. Canon-McMillan won both state team tournament titles and set a WPIAL record by being the first Class AAA team to win four consecutive WPIAL Team tournament titles.
“I didn’t want the team to come up short with me and Solomon out of the lineup,” said Krenzelak. “I was so happy to see them reach their goal.”
Now Krenzelak has a chance to reach some of his goals this season, starting with a Powerade title. He opened the tournament with a 9-1 decision over Teagan O’Sullivan of Erie Cathedral Prep and followed it with a 6-3 decision over fourth-seeded Michael Roquet of Collins Hills, Ga.
Against Florentino, Krenzelak got the first takedown for 2-1 lead after one period. Krenzelak escaped in the second to make it 3-1 and gave up an escape in the third to make it 3-2. Krenzelak was warned for stalling with seven seconds to go.
“I never wrestled (Florentino) before,” said Krenzelak. “I heard he was a good wrestler and technically solid.”
Mary also had a close call, this one against Lucas Simpkins of Ripley, W.Va. The bout was tied 1-1 in the third when Mary hit a double-leg takedown with 24 seconds remaining. Simpkins reversed Mary with eight seconds left but Mary spun away for an escape with four seconds to go for the one-point win.
“I tried to hit a switch at the end, and I got out for the one,” said Mary. “I didn’t know much about him. I knew he would be tough to score on. My dad didn’t get a chance to look at him either. He’s my scout.”
Mary went 2-2 in the last two Powerades so he is already done better in this, his junior season.
“The semis are a big change for me,” he said. “I owe this to my workout partners. They make those guys out there feel light.”
Price went into overtime against Charles Lenox of Erie McDowell. Price gave up an escape with 46 seconds to go to see regulation end at 2-2. But Price hit a spin move and took Lenox down 27 seconds into the OT.
“He beat me by one point last year and I beat him by a point in the team tournament,” said Price. “I know I’m better on my feet. That’s why I let him up (to start the third period). I struggled on the bottom against him.”
Headlee and Macri had no trouble in their Friday matches. Headlee moved into the semifinals with a 19-4 technical fall over Stone Kepple of Derry and Macri took a 22-7 technical fall over Mitch Hartman of Belle Vernon.