Waynesburg’s Piper overcoming tough break

February 27, 2014
Shane Piper of Waynesburg works to turn Austin Leon of Seneca Valley during their 152-pound first-round bout in the WPIAL Class AAA Championships at Canon-McMillan High School Thursday night. Piper won a 3-0 decision to advance to the quarterfinals. - Joe Tuscano / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

CANONSBURG – Shane Piper has a most interesting won-loss record this season.

The junior from Waynesburg High School has four wins.

That’s it. Four.

It’s not that Piper isn’t good enough to win more. He just hasn’t been healthy enough.

A broken left ankle two weeks before the season began put him out of the lineup for nearly three months. He received a doctor’s release to resume practicing two weeks ago, and it was the most grueling time of his wrestling career.

It also was the most important.

Piper chalked up win No. 4 Thursday night at 152 pounds in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA Championships at Canon-McMillan High School. Piper shut out Austin Leon of Seneca Valley, 3-0, to advance to tonight’s quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Semifinals are at noon Saturday and the finals are at 7 p.m.

The top three wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the PIAA Championships, which begin Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Piper hopes to be one of them, and beating Derek Verkleeren of Belle Vernon tonight would certainly help.

“I pushed myself as hard as I could to get ready,” said Piper, who went 0-2 in this tournament last year and finished at 21-15. “I just went through a lot of intense drilling. I worked out with Colin McCracken, Logan Henderson, Terry Victor. I owe everything as far as my conditioning goes to them. They are the best teammates in the world.”

Piper looked strong, riding Leon for most of the final period. He had an escape in the second and a reversal in the third. Afterwards, he didn’t favor his ankle or show any signs of a limp.

“There was no surgery,” he said. “I didn’t need to. But the recovery time kept changing. First it was 4-6 weeks, then 6-8 weeks, then 8-12. It just wasn’t healing the way it was supposed to. I always felt I would wrestle again.”

Piper hoped to get down to 140 when the season started but changed his mind.

“I had a hard time getting there,” he said. “I thought 40 was stacked more than 52. I could have gotten to 45, but I didn’t want to knock our guy (Victor) off that spot.”

None of the top four seeds was beaten yesterday, but there was some interesting developments. Ethan McCoy, a 113-pound sophomore, and Ethan Smith, a 145-pound freshman, became ill for Latrobe and were forced to scratch.

McCoy’s absence ignited six changes in the 113-pound bracket. Brendan Price of Canon-McMillan took over the fourth seed and won a 14-4 decision over Alex Salas of Pine-Richland. Price gets Doug Gudenburr of Ringgold in the quarterfinals.

“I found out when I got to school,” said Price. “Either way, you still need to be in the top three. It doesn’t matter who you wrestle. I just make sure I am in the best shape I can be, and I don’t change my strategy.”

Piper is one of four Waynesburg wrestlers in the winners’ bracket. The others are Shane Wilson at 120, A.C. Headlee at 126 and Colin McCracken at 160. Wilson won his 24th match of the season with an 8-1 decision over James Barrickman of Thomas Jefferson. The postseason is the first time he has been at this weight.

“I made it just in time for sections,” said Wilson. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty weak. I tried to get to 120 during the season but couldn’t make it. I feel I have the best shot at this weight class.”

Wilson appears headed for another meeting with Canon-McMillan’s Matt Oblock. The two faced off in the section finals and Wilson won a 6-3 decision in two overtimes. Wilson has to beat Kiski freshman Joe Blumer and Oblock must get past Belle Vernon senior Brendan Hasson for that to occur.

Belle Vernon and Franklin Regional advanced eight wrestlers and Kiski and North Allegheny seven. Locally, Canon-McMillan leads with six. Peters Township has five and Waynesburg four.

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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