South Fayette rolls to Section 1-AA title

January 22, 2014
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter South Fayette's Scott Rzepecki wrestles Ellwood's Jordan Lemanski in the 126-pound bout. Rzepecki won by technical fall.
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Avella's Dean Simonelli controls Burgettstown's Tristan Nicholson in the 195-pound bout. Nicholson earned several points in the last seconds of the match to win a 4-3 decision.
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Burgettstown's Ryan Pendeville gives his coach a thumbs up after pinning Avella's Derek Allen in the 195-pound bout Wednesday.

BURGETTSTOWN – Coming off a second-place finish in the WPIAL Class AA Team Wrestling Tournament last season, South Fayette High School is looking to take the next step with its program.

But first, the Lions had to take care of business at the Section 1 tournament at Burgettstown High School Wednesday night.

Consider that mission accomplished, and in impressive fashion.

The Lions captured their second consecutive Section 1-AA title, rolling through Ellwood City, 64-18, then handling Burgettstown, 65-10, in the championship, practically pinning their way through the dual meets.

“We expected Burgettstown to come at us in their home gym,” said South Fayette coach Rick Chaussard, whose team qualified for the tournament by finishing first in subsection 1-B. “They have a good, rich tradition and we expected a battle.”

Burgettstown, the subsection 1-A champion, expected a closer match as well. To get to the finals, the Blue Devils, who came into the night with a perfect 6-0 record in dual meets, had to face longtime rival Avella.

“We got off to a kind of a slow start and never really recovered from it,” said Burgettstown coach Terry Havelka. “I think our kids were still feeling the emotion of beating Avella. It’s a big win. It’s a big rivalry. I think they were still floating a little bit. They didn’t come back and focus for South Fayette.”

The Lions, who ran their record to a perfect 17-0, took immediate advantage.

Jack Previte got a hard-earned 7-1 win over Brad Hucik at 182, where the match began, before Rausaun Culbertson and Bryce Christoff followed with pins. When the Lions picked up forfeits at heavyweight and 106 pounds, they already owned a 27-0 lead.

“I wasn’t really trying to get a pin,” said Culbertson. “I was just going out and trying to score some points for our team. But I saw the chance for the pin and took it. The coaches showed a lot of faith in me to send me out there.”

It was that kind of night for Chaussard and the Lions. Seemingly whatever matchup the South Fayette coach came up with turned to gold.

Austin McDermitt slowed the South Fayette momentum with a pin at 113 pounds and John Dennis followed that with a major decision at 120 that gave the Blue Devils a bit of life.

But it was short-lived, as Scott Rzepecki, trailing 2-1 late in the second period, caught Darrell Bails and reversed him onto his back, recording a pin at 3:49.

It was all South Fayette from there, with the Lions closing the match out with pins by Shane Ging, Ben Previte, Grant Fetchet and Jared Walker. Michael Carr got a hard-fought 6-5 decision over Stephen Kotouch at 138 pounds that actually was clinched the match.

None of the team involved in next Wednesday night’s section tournament was eliminated. All advance to next week’s WPIAL Class AA Team Tournament, with South Fayette as section champion, Burgettstown second, Ellwood City third, thanks to a 42-33 win over fourth-place Avella.

And if Chaussard has things his way, this latest section championship will be looked upon as a stepping stone to something bigger for his program.

“That’s the goal. If we continued to be successful, it will carry over to next year and the kids will know what we expect every year,” Chaussard said. “When I first came here a few years ago, they didn’t know how to win. It happened in this gym. We lost a match here in a dual meet to a team I thought we should have beaten. We lost. Burgettstown wanted it, and we didn’t know how to win it. I think we’ve changed that mentality the past two years.”

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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