Finals add shot of excitement to Class AA

February 22, 2014
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Eleanor Bailey / The Almanac
Jefferson-Morgan wrestler John Demaske, top, puts Patrick Dewitt of Valley in a precarious position during WPIAL Class AA 126-pound championship action. Demaske scored a 6-0 decision to win the title and also preserve his undefeated record.
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Eleanor Bailey / The Almanac
Austin McDermitt of Burgettstown, top, scored a 7-0 decision against Austin Griffiths of Southmoreland in the 113-pound finals to claim his second WPIAL Class AA wrestling championship Saturday.

BRIDGEVILLE – Pick a weight class, any weight class, and it was sure to entertain.

A somewhat sluggish WPIAL Class AA Wrestling Championship burst wide open in the 14-bout finals Saturday at Chartiers Valley High School.

And that was not even taking into account Jason Nolf of Kittanning becoming the 23rd wrestler to win four straight WPIAL titles.


• John Demaske of Jefferson-Morgan won a battle of unbeatens after deciding against pulling out of the finals with an injury.

• Austin McDermitt of Burgettstown roared through the 113-pound weight class, making Brendan Howard of Jefferson-Morgan and Austin Griffiths of Southmoreland – two outstanding wrestlers – look ordinary.

• Mike Carr of South Fayette, with brother Nick and other family members and friends in the stands, managed to win his first title at 132, and didn’t even put his foot through a wall.

• J.J. Walker got a preview of what Nolf went through when he won his third title with a win at 160.

• And even the crowd got into it, some of whom wanted to put on their own show at the finals’ midpoint but were quickly quieted.

Only the top seven wrestlers in each weight class advanced to the PIAA Southwest Region Championships at the War Memorial in Johnstown. The two-day tournament begins Friday afternoon.

“This tournament (until the finals) was ho-hum,” said Rich Chaussard, head coach of South Fayette, which advanced six wrestlers to the regionals.

“These finals got exciting, and that’s not a bad thing.”

Demaske showed determination and desire in his 6-0 rout of Pat Dewitt of Valley, who came into the bout with a 36-0 record and left at 36-1. Demaske pulled a muscle in a 5-0 semifinal win over Matt Vickless of Bentworth.

“I wasn’t going to wrestle the finals,” Demaske said. “I was going to forfeit, and go after it again next week.”

Demaske discussed the situation with head coach Mike Lesko and his father before deciding to give it a try.

“He got a strain in his bicep,” said Lesko. “He likes to be 100 percent, no kinks in the armor. I told him it’s your decision. I said if you aren’t ready, don’t do it.”

Carr chalked up his first title with a 9-2 dismantling of Evan Myers of Southmoreland at 132. The win came in front of brother Nick, who wrestles at Washington & Jefferson College. The Carr family – Mike, Nick and Seth – have had their share of battles, some of which occurred off the mat.

“Our dining room used to be our wrestling room,” said Carr, now 37-0. “Our mom flipped out. One time I put my foot through a wall, and my dad and I had to fix it.”

McDermitt dropped a weight, which was bad news for Griffiths and Howard. McDermitt pinned Howard in the semifinals and shut out Griffiths 6-0 in the finals.

“Griffiths got the better of me in my freshman and sophomore year,” said McDermitt. “I worked hard to prepare for this tournament. I felt good mentally and physically.”

Walker pinned Ryan Zalar of Jefferson-Morgan in 3:33 for title No. 3. He can become the 24th four-timer next season.

“I got picked up watching my teammates,” said Walker. “I got a boost of energy and it was a great feeling. I was trying to get my points early. Usually in my matches, it’s only one or two points different.”

Avella’s Jake Temple stretched his undefeated streak to 36 and won his second title with an 18-3 technical fall over Jacob Robb of Kittanning. Temple, Carr, Demaske and Nolf are the only undefeated WPIAL wrestlers remaining in Class AA.

“This year is more satisfying winning, because that kid was picked by a lot of people in the tournament,” said Temple. “I never thought I would tech him, but I’ll take it.”

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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