MONONGAHELA – Redemption can come in different forms, but it always emanates from the same place.
George Rogers is learning that lesson, and it took a suspension from an ugly incident during last year’s wrestling season to show him the right path.
Rogers, a senior at Washington, was thrown out of last year’s Section 2-AA tournament for his actions in a 138-pound consolation bout against Jason Stay of Beth-Center. Trailing Stay by a point late in the bout, Rogers lost control of his temper after going out of bounds. He kicked the stands and complained to referee Greg Severyn.
On the restart, Rogers aggressively went into Stay, drawing a penalty point. Rogers then bumped Severyn and was thrown out of the tournament.
The WPIAL suspended Rogers for the remainder of the year, including December matches of this season.
“Last year was a bunch of nonsense,” said Rogers. “I have the drive to come back and get after it again.”
In the first two rounds of the Tri-County Athletic Directors Association Wrestling Tournament Friday at Ringgold, Rogers began the journey back. He won two bouts, including a 3-1 decision over second-seeded Jake Gerard of Ringgold in the quarterfinals.
Rogers enters the semifinals at 10:30 a.m. today and, if successful there, would wrestle in the 2:30 p.m. finals.
Rogers’ upset wasn’t the only one during the first day. Austin McDermitt of Burgettstown, the top seed at 120, was knocked off by Canon-McMillan freshman Matt Oblock, 4-3, in ultimate tiebreaker.
Canon-McMillan leads the team scoring with 108 points and 10 wrestlers in the finals and is followed by Ringgold (72, 6), Jefferson-Morgan (65, 5), McGuffey (59.5, 5) and Avella (56.5, 5).
The two wins raised Rogers’ record to 3-1 and put his career mark at 68-32.
“It was hard, but it feels great to be back,” said Rogers. “If people think I’m a hothead, then that’s what they are going to think. My teammates know who I am. Every wrestler gets mad. I just thought after it happened that it’s time for me to grow up.”
Rogers’ return did not come without some conditions, but what Wash High head coach John Paiani tried to drive home was that Rogers needed to mature.
“I told him that this year is going to be different,” Paiani said. “He had to prove to me that he could be a leader on and off the mat. He said he would try to be different this year.”
Rogers returned to the lineup for a 33-30 loss to West Greene Jan. 2. Rogers pinned Doug Berdine in 3:46. In a dual meet loss to Beth-Center Wednesday, Rogers suffered his first defeat of the season, 9-5, to Anthony Welsh, who is the top seed in the Tri-CADA event at 145.
Paiani was watching for Rogers’ reaction to the loss.
“It was a close match, and he kept his head,” said Paiani. “They just shook hands and walked off. The referee even complimented him.”
Rogers realizes he will be closely watched this season, but believes he is prepared.
“It’s up to me to be a senior leader,” he said. “I want to show the younger guys how to act professionally, the way a wrestler should be. I want to go out in style.”
Oblock’s victory came with a lot of dramatics. He got a takedown in the closing seconds of regulation to tie the bout 3-3 and send it into overtime. No one scored through the first three overtime periods and Oblock chose down for the final overtime.
The C-M freshman nearly broke free but McDermitt trapped his head. As the clock ticked off the final seconds, Oblock popped his head out for the winning point.
“It’s my biggest win,” he said. “I practice with him all the time in the offseason but never wrestled him. “I didn’t know if I got the takedown until it happened. After that, I set my mind to not let it get away from me. It was nice to get my first big win.”
Nick Gavazzi, who would have been the top seed at 145, pulled out of the tournament. Gavazzi, a senior who won a WPIAL title and finished fifth in the state at 138 last season, has been battling a shoulder problem. He also missed the Chartiers-Houston tournament. He last wrestled Jan. 2 against Southmoreland. Gavazzi is a two-time champion here. … A.C. Headlee of Waynesburg is the top seed at 126 and is looking for his third straight tournament title.