Team USA edges Team PA, three No. 1s go down

PITTSBURGH -- When the score was 16-6 in favor of Team USA after seven matches of the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic, things seemed somewhat bleak for the Pennsylvania squad. Six matches remained, and the Keystone State seniors would probably need five wins to take the dual meet. In addition, two of the remaining Team USA wrestlers were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

However, one upset over a national No. 1 later, and with four wins in five matches, it was now Pennsylvania which entered the last match of the dual favored in spite of facing a 19-18 deficit. Taking to the mats for the Keystone State was No. 1 Cody Wiercioch (Canon-McMillan), a four-time state finalist and three-time state champion.

However, it was not to be as No. 3 Zach Beard (Tuttle, Okla.) would score two first-period takedowns off of throw-by's and never look back in a 7-4 upset victory over Wiercioch to clinch the United States' 22-18 victory in the 2013 Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. With that performance, Beard was named Outstanding Wrestler for Team USA.

"It put pressure on me, but at the same time created a surge of energy," said Beard about last match dynamics. "Getting the lead set the tone of the match, and it kept me going. It is really meaningful to win, and it's important to me, and also to represent the state of Oklahoma and University of Wyoming (where I'll be wrestling in college) in a positive light."

Beard was but one of three wrestlers able to upset a national No. 1 on Sunday evening. Right before the mid-point of the dual meet, No. 2 Domenic Abounader (St. Edward, Ohio) upended Eric Morris (Wyoming Seminary) 1-0 with a second period escape and keeping Morris down for the full two minutes of the third period.

"I knew that (Morris) was a strong wrestler, very good in both mat positions (top/bottom), and had come through in close matches during the season," said Abounader. "However, I knew victory could be had, and it feels great to come through with one, and it's a big step for me."

The other upset of a national No. 1 came from No. 8 Austin Matthews (Reynolds) as the second of the four Pennsylvania victories in their late comeback attempt. For Matthews, it was an 8-2 decision over Jake Short (Simley, Minn.) at 152 pounds keyed by an opening period takedown right into a tilt that provided a 5-0 cushion with one-third of the match gone.

"It's something that I hit a lot in matches," said Matthews about that big move. "I scored on it twice in an 18-6 regional final victory, and got it right off the bat in a 16-6 state semifinal victory. Getting out to a big lead makes it easier to break the opponent, as it's hard to come back from such a deficit."

Matthews got it out to 6-0 with a second period escape. Short would cut it to 6-2 with a takedown, but a late period reversal and then a third period ride out would provide Matthews with the final details in an 8-2 victory.

"I had no pressure, was able to let it go, and do what I do best: just wrestle and hold nothing back," added Matthews about facing, and beating, a national No. 1.

The first four matches of the dual meet featured the USA and Pennsylvania squads trading decision victories. In the opening bout, No. 1 Ben Whitford (St. Johns, Mich.) used takedowns in each period on the way to a decisive 7-3 decision against No. 5 Mike Racciato (Pen Argyl) at 145 pounds.

No. 10 Zach Fuentes (Norristown) would then make a first period takedown stand up in a 3-2 victory over No. 17 Paul Mascarenas (Cleveland, N.M.) at 113 pounds, which tied the dual meet up at 3-all.

Despite being outwrestled for most of the match from the neutral position, it was No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (CVCA, Ohio) who came up with the match's only takedown early in the third period, as he squeezed out a 3-2 victory over No. 3 Darian Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic). This came despite a late match surge in which Cruz was close to scoring on two different leg attack sequences within the last thirty seconds of the match.

Then to tie the dual meet up at 6-all, No. 7 Paul Bradley (Nazareth) came up with a 3-1 overtime victory over No. 2 Brooks Black (Blair Academy, N.J.). This avenged a previous Black victory, 2-1 in the tiebreaker) at the Beast of the East three months ago.

"I knew that (Black) like the Russian, and didn't really like to shoot from neutral," answered Bradley when asked about what he learned from their earlier meeting. "He's a very big and strong kid, so I'm glad I was able to get the takedown in overtime, and end my high school experience with a win."

At present, Bradley remains uncommitted for collegiate wrestling. However, he does have two or three visits lined up before making a decision. In addition, Bradley is also considering when to complete his two-year church mission; be it before he enrolls in college or during his collegiate career.

With the score tied at 6-6, the only true one-sided match of the main event occurred with No. 3 Isaiah Martinez (Lemoore, Calif.) dominating No. 14 Cody Law (Forest Hills) 20-8. Martinez scored three takedowns in the first period, two in the second, and five in the third period. It was an extreme statement made by the three-time California state champion, who is bound for the University of Illinois for 2013-14.

The 1-0 decision victory for Abounader, combined with a 6-1 victory for fellow St. Edward wrestler Dean Heil, would stretch the USA lead out to 16-6. Heil, ranked No. 3 nationally at 132 pounds, would score his needed points in the first period off a takedown and three-point near fall against fellow four-time state champion Ryan Diehl (Trinity), who is ranked No. 5 down a weight class at 126.

The next match, which was the eighth of the evening, featured a pair of 195 pound wrestlers competing up at 220 pounds. No. 1 Ryan Solomon (Milton, Pa.) was able to stem the USA momentum with a 2-1 tiebreaker victory over No. 2 Frank Mattiace (Blair Academy, N.J.). The wrestlers traded escapes in regulation, and were otherwise scoreless during regulation and sudden victory overtime. Then, in the tiebreaker portion, Solomon scored his point when Mattiace was hit for a stalling from the top position – his second of the match – during the first part of the 30/30.

After Matthews scored the 8-2 victory to cut the Pennsylvania deficit to 16-12, Joey Dance (Christiansburg, Va.) scored a crucial victory for the USA squad at 126 pounds against No. 2 Connor Schram (Canon-McMillan). Yet again, the wrestlers traded escapes in regulation, but were otherwise held without points in regulation and the sudden victory overtime. In this match, Dance scored on an escaped in the first portion of the 30/30, and held Schram down during the second part for a 2-1 tiebreaker victory.

"I knew I could hold him down with the lift & return sequence," said Dance about wrestling in the tiebreakers, after virtually letting Schram loose in the second period during regulation. "(The lift & return) is something we do as conditioning in (high school) practice, and I also work on it over at Virginia Tech club practice against (NCAA qualifiers) Jarrod Garnett and Erik Spjut."

Dance is bound for Virginia Tech in 2013-14, and plans on being ready to step in right off the bat for the Hokies at 125 pounds.

With the score 19-12 in favor of the USA, Pennsylvania would put Zach Beard in the position where he needed to pull off the last-match upset with consecutive victories from No. 8 Jake Hart (Hampton) and No. 1 Zain Retherford (Benton) at 195 and 138 pounds respectively.

Hart scored a 3-2 victory over No. 11 Broc Berge (Kasson-Mantorville). During this match, state champion Hart rode out 2011 and 2012 state champion Berge during the second period, was let loose to start the third period, but then gave up a late match takedown to Berge. However, with virtually no time on the clock, Hart would turn around a 2-1 deficit into the 3-2 victory with a match-winning reversal.

Retherford, who has won everything under the sun in the last calendar year – NHSCA Junior Nationals, FILA Cadet National freestyle, Junior National freestyle, FILA Cadet World freestyle, Super 32 Challenge, Ironman, Powerade, and Pennsylvania Class AA state title – would face four-time state champion and career undefeated Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, N.J.) in the evening's penultimate match.

Despite the lack of scoring, it was not for a lack of action and intensity from the top two ranked 138 pound wrestlers in the country. Scoreless after one, Ashnault responded with an escape midway through the second period. Then, it was Retherford's turn in the down position during the third period. A position from which he scored a reversal with just under a minute left in the match. From there, he held Ashnault down and secured the 2-1 victory.

It was a performance that earned Retherford Outstanding Wrestler honors for the Pennsylvania squad.

"I had to be deliberate because he's quick like a cat," said Retherford about facing the very accomplished and talented Ashnault. "I also had to keep a high-level for the full six minutes against such a tough opponent. Getting the win here sets a very positive tone going forward."

USA 22 Pennsylvania 18
145: No. 1 Ben Whitford (St. Johns, Mich.) dec. No. 5 Mike Racciato (Pen Argyl), 7-3
113: No. 10 Zach Fuentes (Norristown) dec. No. 17 Paul Mascarenas (Cleveland, N.M.), 3-2
120: No. 1 Nathan Tomasello (CVCA, Ohio) dec. No. 3 Darian Cruz (Bethlehem Catholic), 3-2
285: No. 7 Aaron Bradley (Nazareth) dec. No. 2 Brooks Black (Blair Academy, N.J.), 3-1 SV
160: No. 3 Isaiah Martinez (Lemoore, Calif.) maj. dec. No. 14 Cody Law (Forest Hills), 20-8
182: No. 2 Domenic Abounader (St. Edward, Ohio) dec. No. 1 Eric Morris (Wyoming Seminary), 1-0
132: No. 3 Dean Heil (St. Edward, Ohio) dec. No. 5 (at 126) Ryan Diehl (Trinity), 6-1
220: No. 1 (at 195) Ryan Solomon (Milton) dec. No. 2 (at 195) Frank Mattiace (Blair Academy, N.J.), 2-1 TB
152: No. 8 Austin Matthews (Reynolds) dec. No. 1 Jake Short (Simley, Minn.), 8-2
126: No. 5 (at 138) Joey Dance (Christiansburg, Va.) dec. No. 2 Connor Schram (Canon-McMillan), 2-1 TB
195: No. 8 Jake Hart (Hampton) dec. No. 11 Broc Berge (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.), 3-2
138: No. 1 Zain Retherford (Benton) dec. No. 2 Anthony Ashnault (South Plainfield, N.J.), 2-1
170: No. 3 Zach Beard (Tuttle, Okla.) dec. No. 1 Cody Wiercioch (Canon-McMillan), 7-4

WPIAL scores 28-19 victory over Virginia

This was the third time in the 39 editions of the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic that the WPIAL and Virginia met in the undercard event. Both of the matches prior to tonight had resulted in wins for the WPIAL, 30-22 in 1986 and 29-24 in 2003. However, tonight's match was expected to be a stern examination.

It certainly appeared to be headed that way, and possibly even towards the favor of the Virginia squad after wins from No. 9 Dennis Gustafson (Forest Park) and No. 12 Andrew Atkinson (Liberty Christian Academy), who was wrestling up a weight, gave "The Commonwealth" a 12-7 lead after five matches.

In the evening's sixth match at 145 pounds, it was three-time Virginia state champion Beau Donahue (Westfield) facing Phil Marra (Burrell, Pa.) Donahue also had amassed over 200 wins in his four year high school career, while Marra placed just once at state – fourth this year -- and ended his career at just under 100 wins. However, Marra got the match's only takedown with inside 20 seconds remaining to win 2-0.

"I don't even know who the opponent is (in any match), and nothing bothers me," said Marra in response to having to face an opponent as accomplished as Donahue. "There's no way (my opponent) was in as good of condition as I was coming off the state tournament last weekend (Virginia had their state tournament two weeks prior to Pennsylvania)."

The next match at 152 pounds featured a 6-2 decision for Heath Coles (Norwin, Pa.) over Sean Murphy (Colonial Forge, Va.) to give the WPIAL a 13-12 lead, which they would maintain for the rest of the match. That was followed by a third consecutive WPIAL victory, this one coming from Zach Voytek (Greensburg Salem) with a 4-3 decision over state champion Rory Renzi (Lake Braddock) at 160.

A 5-2 decision victory at 170 pounds from Zach Epperly (Christiansburg, Va.), who is ranked No. 6 nationally up at 182 pounds, cut the Virginia deficit to 16-15. However, a pair of victories from highly credentialed WPIAL seniors would serve as the de facto clinchers.

At 182 pounds, Dakota DesLauriers (Burrell) upended Ryland O'Brien (First Colonial) 2-0 with an extremely late takedown in a battle of state champions. Then, the 195 pound match featured 2012 state champion Matt McCutcheon (Kiski Area), who is ranked No. 10 nationally, put the hammer down with a pin at the 4:14 mark against state champion Corbin Ramos (Matoaca, Va.).

This performance from McCutcheon earned the two-time Super 32 Challenge champion Outstanding Wrestler honors for the undercard bout. "After the last couple of weeks (losses in the regional and state finals), it fel pretty good to end on a positive note," said McCutcheon. "I wanted to get back to how I normally wrestle, wrestling to win as instead of ‘not to lose', and to get my offense going."

Outstanding Wrestler honors for the Virginia squad went to Atkinson, a four-time National Prep placer, who earned a pin against three-time state placer Ethan Kenney (Connellsville, Pa.). Atkinson trailed the match 4-0 after Kenney scored a takedown to the back right off the bat. However, the future University of Virginia wrestler Atkinson countered with an escape, takedown, and three near fall points by the end of the first period to lead 6-4.

"I just got caught off guard and on my heels right off the bat," said Atkinson. "(Kenney) just took me straight to my back. However, I thought I would still win the match once I got my back."

Kenney started the second period with a match-tying takedown. However, Atkinson would respond with a reversal and then the same tilt that he trapped for near falls in the first period would lead this time to a fall. "It's awesome to wrestle in this type of atmosphere (almost sold out crowd," added Atkinson. "I came here to win, and that's what I did."

While Atkinson came in to win, it was the WPIAL squad that did the bulk of the winning, as they won eight weight classes out of the 13 contested. Augmenting the wins from Marra, Coles, Voytek, DesLauriers, and McCutcheon were a 4-2 decision victory for state runner-up Seth Carr (South Fayette) at 113 pounds, a 19-6 maj. decision for state third placer Tyler Walker (North Hills) at 126, and a 3-2 victory for state qualifier Antonio Broglia (Canon-McMillan) at 285.

WPIAL 28 Virginia 19
113: Seth Carr (South Fayette, Pa.) dec. Sean Badua (Osbourn Park, Va.), 4-2
120: J.R. Wert (Christiansburg, Va.) dec. Nate Reckner (South Side Area, Pa.), 2-0
126: Tyler Walker (North Hills, Pa.) maj. dec. Gabe Lumpp (Christiansburg, Va.), 19-6
132: No. 9 Dennis Gustafson (Forest Park, Va.) dec. Nick Zanetta (Keystone Oaks, Pa.), 2-1
138: No. 12 (at 138) Andrew Atkinson (Liberty Christian Academy, Va.) pinned Ethan Kenney (Connellsville, Pa.), 3:54
145: Phil Marra (Burrell, Pa.) dec. Beau Donahue (Westfield, Va.), 2-0
152: Heath Coles (Norwin, Pa.) dec. Sean Murphy (Colonial Forge, Va.), 6-2
160: Zach Voytek (Greensburg Salem, Pa.) dec. Rory Renzi (Lake Braddock, Va.), 4-3
170: No. 6 (at 182) Zach Epperly (Christiansburg, Va.) dec. Dustin Conti (Jefferson-Morgan, Pa.), 5-2
182: Dakota DesLauriers (Burrell, Pa.) dec. Ryland O'Brien (First Colonial, Va.), 2-0
195: No. 10 Matt McCutcheon (Kiski Area, Pa.) pinned Corbin Ramos (Matoaca, Va.), 4:14
220: Zach Roseberry (Brentsville, Va.) maj. dec. Garrett Vulcano (Chartiers Houston, Pa.), 12-3
285: Angelo Broglia (Canon-McMillan, Pa.) dec. Justin Williams (Skyline, Va.), 3-2


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rick smith (1) about 5 years ago
two ow's going to the same d1 school--has this ever been done before--even out of the same tournament?? what a credit to the coaching staff.. we'll c if this talant parlays into national champs at the next level.

go penn state

good matchs---great coverage.