Lions roar into semifinals of team tournament

January 29, 2014

McDONALD – J.J. Walker remembers what it felt like last year to come so close to winning a WPIAL Team tournament title, and he doesn’t want to go through that disappointment again.

Neither does the rest of the wrestlers on South Fayette’s team.

The Lions took two more steps to avenging a five-point loss to Burrell in the WPIAL Class AA finals last year by winning in the first and quarterfinal rounds Wednesday in their home gym.

South Fayette, the No. 1 team in the Observer-Reporter Class AA team rankings, routed Southmoreland, 60-19, then disposed of Avella for the third time this season, 47-21, to advance to Friday’s semifinals at Norwin High School.

South Fayette, now 19-0, will wrestle Jefferson-Morgan, in a 7:30 p.m. dual meet. The winner gets to the finals, where seven-time WPIAL team champion Burrell is expected to be waiting.

“We’re very motivated this year,” said Walker. “It was a bad feeling last year. It was the first time in school history we got there. I felt we could get it done, but we didn’t.”

Walker said last year’s loss in the finals stayed with this team, but in a good way.

“We talk about it all the time,” he said. “Every day, it’s mentioned.”

That appears to be driving the Lions, who had little trouble with either opponent last night. At one point, South Fayette had collective leads of 83-3. Walker contributed 10 of those team points by getting a forfeit win against Southmoreland and a 10-0 major decision over Shawn Carl in the Avella match. Both wins came at 170 and raised Walker’s season record to 28-1. That puts him just two victories shy of 100, a mark teammate Grant Fetchet reached earlier this month at the Valley Duals.

“I came into the season with a 70-36 record, so I needed 30,” Walker said.

Fetchet should pass Nick Carr’s team record of 128 wins if he gets seven more. Walker realizes he could join the Century Club at the same time the Lions celebrate winning a WPIAL team title.

“We have experienced guys from last year,” he said. “We got experience against some of the guys we’re going to wrestle. We have another chance, another shot.”

Rick Chaussard said he just wanted to get out of the doubleheader without injury. That didn’t happen as his son, Kevin, was forced to default at 120 pounds against Southmoreland with a shoulder injury.

“If push came to shove, he could have gone back out,” Chaussard said. “If it were any other match, he would wrestle.”

South Fayette already owned wins of 55-9 and 63-18 over Avella this season.

“This was the closest one,” said Avella head coach Jeremy Allen. “We knew what to expect when we came here.”

The dual meet ended with four consecutive forfeits. Fetchet had the only pin for the Lions, sticking Brian Gordon in 1:10 at 160. For Avella, Jake Temple pinned Spencer Girman in 2:58 at 220 and Andrew Haskakis pinned Jeremy Carter in 5:39 at heavyweight.

“Our kids knew what to expect,” Allen said. “South Fayette has such flexibility in its lineup.”

In the opening dual meets, Avella knocked off Bentworth 41-30, taking advantage of two forfeits in the heavyweights. Nick Kusich (145), Dean Simonelli (170) and Jake Temple (Hvy) had pins for the Eagles. Dakota Umphrey (152) won by technical fall. Jake Rothka had pin for Bentworth (6-6).

South Fayette breezed past Southmoreland, 60-19, which was wrestling without Austin Griffiths (flu). Jasper Wolfe (113), Scott Rzepecki (126), Brett Beltz (145), Jack Previte (182), Rausaun Culberson (195) and Spencer Girman (22) each had a pin for the Lions. Jake Beistel had a pin for Southmoreland (2-5).

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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