BRIDGEVILLE – It isn’t a coincidence that the three wrestlers from Bentworth High School who had the most to cheer about Friday night are also workout partners in the room.
Hunter Neely, a 106-pound sophomore; Jake Rothka, a 120-pound senior; and Matt Vickless, a 126-pound senior; each had impressive victories in the first two rounds of the WPIAL Class AA Championships at Chartiers Valley.
The three will join 53 other wrestlers in today’s semifinals, which begin at 11:30 a.m. Finals start at 6 p.m.
The top seven wrestlers in each weight class advance to next weekend’s PIAA southwest Region tournament at the War Memorial in Johnstown.
Locally, Jefferson-Morgan led the way with six semifinalists, followed by South Fayette and Avella, with four apiece, Bentworth’s three and Burgettstown, West Greene and Beth-Center with one apiece.
Arguably the most impressive win for Bentworth came from Vickless, who knocked off fourth-seeded Anthony Marra of Burrell 4-3 in the quarterfinals. Vickless was one of eight wrestlers to knock off a top-seeded wrestler.
“That’s the first time I wrestled him,” said Vickless, who raised his record to 28-7 with the win over Marra and a 3-1 decision over Ben Hritsko of Chartiers-Houston in the first round.
“He tried a throw at the end and almost had me. Fortunately, time ran out before he could get around me.”
Vickless said there is a certain mystique to competing against a wrestler from Burrell, which has won the last eight WPIAL Team tournament titles in Class AA.
“I know some kids are like, ‘Oh, I have to wrestle a Burrell kid,’” said Vickless. “I knew it would be a tough match, but I had confidence in myself.”
Vickless is hoping more success on the mat can bring an accomplishment of a different source.
“I’m six wins away from 100,” Vickless said. “Jake Rothka got 100 last year, and that win sent him to states.”
Vickless has a tough task in the semifinals, trying to hand John Demaske of Jefferson-Morgan his first loss of the season.
Rothka, who was eighth in the state last year at 113, opened the tournament with a pin of Kevin Chaussard of South Fayette in 2:42, then stopped Justin Hernandez of South Allegheny 3-0. Rothka draws Kody Komara of Freedom, a freshman with a 28-5 record, in the semifinals.
“I wrestled him two times before, and he beat me,” said Rothka.
The first was a 4-2 decision in the consolations of the Chartiers-Houston Tournament and the second was 11-4 in the semifinals of the Southmoreland Tournament.
“I figured this is where I would be in the bracket,” said Rothka. “I work a lot with Hunter, Ty (Mitchell), Matt and George (Liberatore). This is our moment. I’ve been waiting for (the individual postseason) all year.”
Neely received a bye in the first round, thanks to being the No. 1 seed, then won by 18-2 technical fall over Tyler Alberts of Ellwood City. Neely gets Andrew John of South Fayette in the semifinals.
Ian Wolfe, a junior heavyweight, led a contingent of J-M semifinalists: junior Brendan Howard (113), Demaske (126), senior Jason Miller (138), senior Ryan Zalar (160), and sophomore Bill Bowlen (170).
Wolfe came in as the fourth seed and pinned his way to the semis, first Mike Brell of Highlands in 1:28, then David Grafton of Kittanning in 3:27. Wolfe gets top-seeded Alan Beattie of Burrell this morning.
“I just have to wrestle smart,” Wolfe said. “I’ve improved a lot on my feet, and I have a lot more confidence wrestling on top.”
Dalton Wildman of West Greene had a good start, receiving a bye in the first round because Dean Simonelli of Avella pulled out with an injury earlier in the week. He followed that with an efficient 10-7 decision over Brendon Glover of West Shamokin. Wildman thought he would be wrestling second-seed Fred McKissick today but the Carlynton senior was upset by Jake Walker of Keystone Oaks 3-1 in overtime.
“I made it to the semis last year and finished fifth,” Wildman said. “I was two matches away from making it to states. I think that motivates me. I have to keep opening up more on my feet and shoot a little more.”