HERSHEY – Motivation comes in all forms.
In wrestling, nothing pushes a wrestler to succeed like failure the previous week.
Just ask Austin McDermitt of Burgettstown and Jason Miller of Jefferson-Morgan.
McDermitt, a 113-pound junior, and Miller, a 138-pound senior, each suffered bitter losses in last week’s finals of the PIAA Southwest Region Tournament.
Each found redemption Thursday in the first round of the PIAA Championships at the Giant Center in Hershey.
McDermitt shut out Jordan Gessner, a sophomore from Lewisburg, 9-0, in the first round and Miller rolled to a 5-1 decision over Trevor McWhorter, a sophomore from Williamson.
McDermitt and Miller were part of a strong showing for area Class AA wrestlers as 14 of the 15 qualifiers kept their hopes alive for medals in this three-day tournament. Miller’s teammates, John Demaske (126) and Bill Bowlen (170), South Fayette’s Mike Carr (132) and Jared Walker (160) and Avella’s Jake Temple (220) can still win gold.
Bentworth’s Hunter Neely (106), Chartiers-Houston’s Richie McGinnis (138) and Derek Hull (170), Jefferson-Morgan’s Ryan Zalar (160), South Fayette’s Grant Fetchet (152), and Beth-Center’s Anthony Welsh (145) and Nico Brown (160) can each finish as high as third.
Quarterfinals get under way at 9 a.m. today with the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Finals are Saturday at 2 p.m.
Bethlehem Catholic leads the team standings after the first day with 28 1/2 points. Brookville (17 1/2) and Boiling Springs (15) are second and third, respectively.
McDermitt was upended by Austin Griffiths of Southmoreland 5-1 in last week’s region final in a rematch of the WPIAL finals that McDermitt won.
“I just tried to put it behind me,” said McDermitt, now 39-3. “I kept that (loss) in the back of my mind at practice. That helped me push myself to get ready for this.”
McDermitt looked strong on offense and didn’t allow a point to Gessner in picking up his ninth decision of the season to go with 19 pins, five forfeits, two major decisions and four technical falls.
“I really felt good out there,” McDermitt said. “My weight is good, and it was nice to get that first win.”
McDermitt has a tough draw in today’s quarterfinals, Bethlehem Catholic’s Luke Karam, a state runner-up at 106 to Devin Brown, then wrestling for Saegertown at the time.
Miller was pinned twice in the past two weeks, both times the falls came in tournament finals to the same wrestler and in nearly identical times. Jake Wentzel of South Park pinned Miller in the WPIAL finals in 3:20 and the region finals in 3:30. Both times, he used a cradle.
“I was very disappointed in myself,” said Miller, now 28-3. “(Those losses) made me know I had to do more to win this week. It’s good that that happened before the state tournament. This has given me motivation. It’s my last week of practice, my last state tournament, so I want to leave with no regrets.”
Miller’s quarterfinal opponent is Josh Evans, a senior Southeast champion from Palmerton with a 34-2 record.
“I didn’t change my style,” Miller said. “I know what happened (last week). I hesitated, and he caught me in a cradle. I remember all my losses, and I try to learn from it.”
Demaske, who has been nursing a slight shoulder injury, had no problems in shutting out Collin Mashack of Tamaqua, 4-0. The region champion raised his record to 41-0 and runs into Michael Bartolo of Reynolds in the quarterfinals.
“It keeps getting better,” Demaske said of the shoulder. “It’s a little sore, but I’ve been putting ice and heat on it. It didn’t stop me from going through a full practice.”
Carr also registered a shutout, 5-0 over Steve Maloney of Bethlehem Catholic. Carr, now 41-0, runs into Kyle Shoop, a junior Southeast runner-up from Boiling Springs with a 37-8 record.
Temple also remained undefeated, 40-0, rolling to a 16-1 technical fall over Rian Shubeck of Panther Valley, a fourth-place finisher in the Southeast. Temple, who like Carr is a Southwest champ, gets Wyalusing’s Dylan Otis, a junior with a 40-3 record, in the quarters.