CANONSBURG – The Canon-McMillan wrestling team took two steps Wednesday night in their quest for their unprecedented fifth consecutive WPIAL Class AAA team championship.
The four-time WPIAL champions punched their ticket to the semifinals Friday night at Norwin with a hard fought 31-25 victory over Belle Vernon in the quarterfinals. Earlier in the night, Canon-McMillan disposed of Ringgold, 53-9, in the first round.
The Big Macs, currently the No. 3 ranked team in the Observer-Reporter team rankings, will face Latrobe in the semifinals.
“It was a hard-fought win,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Jason Cardillo. “We knew Belle Vernon would push us to the limit and they did. We weathered the early storm and battled all the way through the end.”
Belle Vernon, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a 46-27 victory over Hempfield, got off to a quick start by winning the first four bouts to gain an early 13-0 advantage.
That all ended when Big Macs’ freshman Brendan Furman (285) pinned Hunter Ferrara to get Canon-Mac (16-0) on the board. Five bouts later, the match was tied 19-19 with only four bouts left.
While the Leopards hung in there for most of the match, they had trouble getting the bonus points as six of their seven wins came by decision. The pin they did get, from Josh Gozdin (160), came after the match was already decided.
That wasn’t a problem for the Big Macs as they recorded bonus points on four of their seven wins.
“Getting the bonus points was big,” said Cardillo. “But just as big was keeping them from getting bonus points. I thought we did a good job of that early on.”
The win for C-M was from senior Alec Hutchin (138), who got a quick pin of Cameron Evans. That not only gave the Big Macs a 25-19 lead, but also swung momentum their way.
Defending state champion Solomon Chishko (145) followed with an 11-6 decision win over Jarod Verkleeren, and Malachi Krenzelak sealed the victory with a 7-5 decision victory over Derek Verkleeren.
“Alec’s pin was big,” said Cardillo. “He had that cement mixer locked in and pulled the trigger. It really fired us up. Then Malachi earned a real hard-fought victory against a guy who was ranked No. 3 at 152. Those were big moments.”
C-M, which has won five state team titles over the past three seasons, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Ringgold.
Ringgold’s lone bright spot was when Kenny Tarpley (132) picked up his 100th career victory.
With eyes on their fifth consecutive WPIAL championship, Cardillo knows the Big Macs better come prepared against Latrobe.
“It will be similar to tonight against Belle Vernon,” he said. “It’s going be a close one. It is going to come down to matchups and bonus points. Hopefully, we can be a little more pumped up for the semifinals and come through again and punch our ticket to Hershey.”