HERSHEY – With one fell swoop, Jake Temple roared into the Giant Center and ended 26 years of waiting by faithful Avella wrestling fans.
Temple polished off a perfect season in a perfect way, taking a 3-1 decision from Reynold “Buzzy” Maines of West Branch in the finals of the 220-pound weight class in the PIAA Class AA Championships Saturday at the Giant Center.
Temple became the Eagles’ first state champion since Ryan Sella won the 98-pound title and the fourth state gold medalist in the program’s history.
The others were Jeff Gordon, who won the 132-pound title in 1978, and Rob Bogo, who was golden at 119 pounds in 1975.
Temple finished the season with a 42-0 record and was one of two area wrestlers in the finals Saturday night. Jared Walker of South Fayette fell in the 160 finals to Kyle Bova of Coudersport, 9-3, but was still one of three medalists for the Lions.
Because of Temple’s win, a number of bets were settled.
• Assistant coach Jeff Kusich has to eat 26 scoops of ice cream.
• Nick Kusich, the Eagles’ 145-pounder, has to eat a five-pound candy bar.
• Another assistant, Ralph Pittman, has to eat a whole chocolate pie.
Those were the promises made if Temple won, and now he has the opportunity to collect.
“This is an experience I never experienced,” said Temple. “And it’s just awesome. I wish I could do this every day.”
Temple beat Maines in last week’s Southwest Region finals in Johnstown, riding him out in the final 30 seconds for a 3-2 win by ultimate tiebreaker.
This time was not as close. Temple got the first takedown in the first period, spinning behind Maines and the West Branch junior tried to dive out of bounds. Temple got the tips in of his size 13 wrestling shoes, lent to him by a friend when his old ones ripped.
“Getting that takedown in the first, I knew I was in good shape,” said Temple. “I knew I still had to keep him down in the first period because if I gave up a point, I knew I would have to score later in the match.”
Temple extended the lead to 3-0 with an escape in the second period and only allowed an escape to Maines (38-2) the rest of the way.
“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” said Avella head coach Jeremy Allen. “I’m sure once we get out of here, it will. We knew he had a chance because last year, he was the only non-senior who placed in the weight (fourth). That was his goal.”
Allen said he wished Don Rush, the former head coach of the Eagles who passed away a few years ago, could have seen this match.
“He would have been really proud of Jake,” Allen said.
Walker saw his chances for a state tile at 160 dissipate under a withering attack by Bova. The senior from Coudersport, who was a state runner-up last year, showed he had no intentions of finishing there this year. Bova scored six points in the second period after a scoreless first to take control of the match.
Bova had Walker on his back for three points with 15 seconds to go to make it a six-point lead. Walker closed the gap to 6-3 with an escape and takedown in the third, but Bova got an escape then a takedown off a desperation shot by Walker to end it.
“I just did what I usually do,” said Walker (43-2). “I wanted to go at him and pick up the pace. The move that usually helps me win, helped me lose. I got caught.”
South Fayette head coach Rick Chaussard said the coaching staff researched Bova.
“We knew a little bit about him,” said Chaussard. “We didn’t go in blind. We told him to do what got you here. He made a couple mistakes. He turned the wrong way a couple of times and got caught on his back.”
Still, Walker was pleased with his season and hopes to go one step further next season.
“It was a great atmosphere here,” he said. “It was a big match. I never felt like that before. It was a fun year. I worked hard to get here.”
In other local results, Austin McDermitt of Burgettstown finished sixth at 113 pounds following a 6-2 loss to Collin Glorioso of Huntingdon. McDermitt, a junior, ended the season with a 41-6 record.
Injuries caught up to Jefferson-Morgan’s John Demaske. Shoulder problems and gout affected him in the consolations at 126. The senior who was 42-0 at one point, lost his final three bouts.
Mike Carr of South Fayette finished fifth at 132 after a 3-1 decision over Stephon Maloney of Bethlehem Catholic on a day when he nearly lost a front tooth.
“I got hit in the mouth with someone’s knee in the consolation round,” Carr said. “I feel OK. I had high goals and a couple more years to accomplish them.”
Carr’s teammate, Grant Fetchet, finished fourth at 152 after losing by 15-0 technical fall to Cole Walter of Mifflinburg.
“I could have wrestled better,” said Fetchet. “For only doing this for 60 days, it wasn’t too bad. We came off football season and crammed all this in. I just wished I could have placed higher.”