He rolled into this tournament the way a storm hits the coast, full of fury and overwhelming everything in the way.
That was what Austin McDermitt did Saturday night in the WPIAL Class AA Wrestling Championships.
McDermitt, a junior, dropped to the 113-pound weight class and put on a dazzling performance, overcoming two top-ranked wrestlers in Brendan Howard of Jefferson-Morgan and Austin Griffiths of Southmoreland.
McDermitt pinned Howard in 4:55 of the semifinals, then won the title by smothering Griffiths, 6-0, in the finals. It was the second consecutive time McDermitt beat Griffiths in the WPIAL finals, winning last year’s 106-pound title with a 9-1 major decision.
“I wanted to do it gradually,” McDermitt said of the drop to 113. “I got down to the weight, and I had a chance to see what it was like. I felt strong, so I stayed.”
McDermitt realizes there can be no letdown now. Though he beat Griffiths in last year’s WPIAL tournament, Griffiths returned the favor at the PIAA Southwest Region Tournament in Johnstown. That’s where the two – and Howard, among others – are heading this week.
“He got the better of me in my freshman and sophomore years,” McDermitt said. “I have to give my assistant coaches a big thanks for what they did to get me ready.”
When McDermitt needs to get away from wrestling, he helps his family run their pheasant farm.
There are 500 acres of land and more pheasants than he can count.
“My dad is always busy,” said McDermitt. “We have them for hunting purposes. I’ve been doing it for four or five years, and I really like it. Our neighbor was raising them, and that’s how we started.”
Only four WPIAL Class AA wrestlers are still undefeated this season, and three of them are from the area.
John Demaske of Jefferson-Morgan considered forfeiting out of the 126-pound finals because of a muscle strain, but decided against it. He wrestled arguably his strongest match of the season, stifling Patrick Dewitt of Valley, 6-0, in the finals. Demaske is now 37-0.
Mike Carr of South Fayette also moved to 37-0 with three wins, including a 9-2 decision over Evan Myers of Southmoreland in the 132 finals.
Jason Nolf of Kittanning not only won his fourth straight WPIAL title, only the 23rd wrestler in WPIAL history to do so, but he put his record at 37-0 for the season. Nolf has a 169-1 record and two state titles.
Jake Temple of Avella moved to 36-0 after three wins, the last of which was a technical fall over Jacob Robb of Kittanning in the 220 finals.
“I don’t look at records as much as how I do when I wrestle,” said Temple, who has won back-to-back WPIAL championships. “Everyone wants to be undefeated. As long as I am on the top of the podium in Hershey, that’s all that matters to me.”
Walker cut above
Jared Walker looked like he had just been in an accident.
The junior from South Fayette had a roll of white gauze around his forehead, covering a bandage that was protecting a cut above his right eye for much of the tournament.
“He cut it during the WPIAL Team Tournament finals,” said South Fayette head coach Rick Chaussard. “He reinjured it at practice this week. It was not nearly as bad as it was.”
As the saying goes: You should see the other guy.
Walker didn’t let a cut stop him from winning his third consecutive WPIAL title with a pin in 3:33 of Ryan Zalar of Jefferson-Morgan in the 160-pound finals. He shut out Ethan Charlesworth of Mount Pleasant, 3-0, in the semifinals and beat Nico Brown of Beth-Center, 7-1, in the opener.
The regional tournament in Johnstown begins with the first of two sessions Friday at 1 p.m. The second round begins at 4 p.m. Semifinals will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday with the finals at 5 p.m. … The WPIAL Class AAA Championships start at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Canon-McMillan High School. It’s a three-day event with finals set for 7:30 p.m., Saturday. … George Phillippi, a defending state champion from Derry, won his second straight WPIAL title. The sophomore also has a chance to win four WPIAL gold medals.