HERSHEY — Austin Matthews didn’t need to stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier to say the words. His wide smile said it all:
The Reynolds High wrestling star erased two years of disappointment in the PIAA State Class AA Championship finals by winning the 152-pound crown Saturday at Hershey Giant Center.
In fact, it was a perfect day for all six Mercer County matmen who competed for medals on Saturday. Lakeview junior Sam Breese duplicated Matthews’ state title, while all four locals in consolation matches also won.
Sharon’s Michael Bonner (138) and Jarray Norris (126) finished 3rd and 5th respectively, while Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamar Henry (182) also both won to finish 7th.
“It’ an amazing feeling,” said Matthews after a tense 4-2 win over Kyle Bova of Coudersport. “A lot of pressure has been lifted. I’m just glad to be going around hugging everyone. I’m happy to be Coach (Casey) Taylor’s first champ. I wish I could have been a three-timer like him, but he showed me how to do it.”
Breese, who edged Nicholas Budd of Port Allegany, 3-1 with a takedown with 2 seconds remaining, almost duplicated the words of the Raider ace when he said, “It feels amazing. I’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m not thinking about next year yet. I’m just going to be happy with this for a while. Then I’ll try to come back and repeat.”
Matthews, a son of Curt and Amy Matthews, finished his career with 4 medals - 8th, 2nd, 2nd and finally the gold. Against Bova, who finished 39-2 with both losses to Matthews, the Raider star nailed an early takedown and made it stand up for the victory.
“He deserved it so much,” said an emotional second-year head coach Taylor shortly after the match. “He worked so hard. He came early everyday to work with Levi Stoyer. He’s just a great kid. I’m glad he was able to add his named to the list of Reynolds’ state champions.
“Good thing he won, I don’t know what I’d have told him if he didn’t,” said Taylor with a laugh. “You tell kids that hard work pays off and Austin is an example of that.
“I knew this match would be a lot different than the last time they met (an 18-6 Matthews win in the region finals). They came in with a different game plan and so did we. Austin wrestled a smart match and got the win he deserved.”
The state title capped one of the best careers in history for local wrestlers. The Clarion-bound standout won 4 titles each at sections, districts and regions. He finished this season with a record of 49-1 and a career mark of 183-17. The win total is second to only the 196 posted by Mason Beckman in the storied Reynolds history books.
Lakeview junior Breese, a son of Sam Breese and Candy Burnett, put his name in the Sailors history books by becoming only the second state champ in school history. Rod Wright won three times from 1985-87. And Breese has shot at two.
His finals match with Budd was a thriller. He escaped in the second period and Budd did the same in the third. Then with the clock ticking down, Budd took a leg shot and Breese countered and spun behind for a takedown and the victory.
“He controlled the pace and controlled the position all match,” said a happy Sailors coach Tom Tingley. “We worked hard on offense and he wrestled a good smart match. Sam had the advantage if the match went to ultimate tiebreaker. The other kid knew what he had to do so you give him credit for that.”
“He’s better than most heavyweights on his feet,” said Breese of Budd. “He took about three good shots that I was able to counter.
The win lifted Breese’s season record to 37-4 and his career mark to 90-26. He placed first at sections and regions, while taking third at districts.
Following is a look at the consolation rounds involving locals:
3rd place consys
Sharon senior Bonner faced rival Brock Zacherl of Brookville in a rematch of the Northwest Region final, where Zacherl won in overtime after a controversial stalling call against Bonner tied up the regulation match with 3 seconds to go. This time, there were no stalling calls, just an exciting hard-fought battle. Bonner had a pair of takedowns to make the difference in a 5-3 victory.
“I said, if he couldn’t be in the finals, I wanted to seem him wrestle (Zacherl),” said Sharon Coach Dave Ciafre. “He made up for what happened last week. He wrestled a great tournament.”
Bonner finished his career with a senior record of 37-4, winning section and district crowns.
5th place consys
Tiger senior Norris took on sophomore Kent Lane of Southern Columbia. Norris trailed 2-1 after the opening period, but notched an escape and takedown in the second to go on top 4-2. In the third period, Lane reciprocated with an escape and takedown, but Norris broke free for a point to tie the count at 5 and force overtime . In OT, Norris countered a leg shot and stepped over for takedown and back points in a 10-5 victory.
“He stepped it up there,” said a happy Coach Ciafre. “Part of that (big smile on Norris’s face coming off the mat) was by taking fifth, he beat (his dad/assistant coach) Larry who was sixth. Jarray was down here three times and Larry twice. It’s a friendly rivalry, but nobody was happier about Jarray taking fifth than his dad.”
“I’m going to miss those two guys, I’ve had them both since they were in 9th grade. For four years they did everything I asked of them. They are two great kids. I told them both before those matches today that they have the rare opportunity to win their last high school match. Most other kids end up losing their final matches. I think they are both going to Clarion so it will be nice to have them wrestling only an hour away.”
Norris finished his senior year with a 39-4 record, winning District 10 and Northwest Region crowns.
7th place consys
Reynolds junior Stoyer left Hershey with a win by defeating Briton Shelton of Bermudian Springs, 5-1. Stoyer had an escape and takedown in the second period, then added a late takedown with seconds remaining in the match. He finished his season with a 42-8 record, winning section, district and region championships.
“Levi had a tremendous year,” said Coach Taylor. “Early in the season he wasn’t so sure of himself. But he developed into a leader and a very good wrestler. He worked with Austin everyday, which made him better, but he also helped Austin get where he’s at today. And Levi will be back next year.”
Raider senior Henry finished out his career in style with a 8-6 win over Garett Wesneski of Canton. Henry copped a reverse and nearfall for a 5-0 lead in the second period and was never threatened the rest of the way as he easily staved off takedown attempts near the end of the bout.
“It was a nice way for Jamar to finish his career,” said Taylor. “He has done a great job for us. His win made the day perfect for us and Raider Nation.”
Henry finished the season with a 38-12 record. He was a section champ, while finishing runner-up at districts and regions.
HERSHEY — Austin Matthews didn’t need to stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier to say the words. His wide smile said it all:
Hickory, Mercer, KC girls PIAA playoff boxes
Who: Hickory (25-0) vs. Greater Johnstown (11-14).
What: PIAA Playoffs, 1st round.
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Slippery Rock University.
Shannonhouse's Steelers set for statewide stage
With the approaching spring, a young man’s fancy turns to ... what else? The PIAA playoffs. And when Shenango Valley scholastic basketball aficionados think of the postseason they think of Farrell.
Recently at E.J. McCluskey Gymnasium, the banners above were blowing in the breeze — ’52 ... ’54 ... ’56 ... ’59 ... ’60 ... ’69 ... ’72 — swaying as sprinting players created a vacuum of air rising from the floor. Melodramatic maybe, but there’s a feeling at Farrell that harkens back to the heyday when playoff success was a rite of passage.
Breese eyes repeat at state mat tourney
There is no doubt that winning a state championship in wrestling is a difficult thing to do. Winning two is even tougher.
“There’s a target on your chest,” pointed out Lakeview High coach Tom Tingley in preseason this year, referring to his star wrestler Sam Breese who won a state heavyweight crown as a junior last year.
Obviously that target hasn’t bothered the Sailors big man who is a perfect 32-0 this season as he attempts to become only the 12th Mercer County matman to win multiple titles.
WRESTLING NOTEBOOK: It's a young group of county matmen headed to state
THERE’S definitely a youth movement in Mercer County wrestling as demonstrated by the group of 11 matmen who are advancing to the PIAA State Class AA Championships on Thursday.
Eight of the locals are underclassmen. The only seniors are Lakeview’s Sam Breese (285), Reynolds’ Levi Stoyer (145) and Jamestown’s Mohamed Messai (182).
Breese and Stoyer are the only returning state place-winners. Breese, who has verbally committed to Kent State University to wrestle next season, won the heavyweight class and is seeking a second gold medal. Stoyer placed 7th at 145 and wants to climb much higher on the medals stand.
Kennedy boys forfeit win, are out of playoffs
The PIAA basketball playoffs do not begin until Friday, but Mercer County already lost a team.
Kennedy Catholic High disclosed Monday the discovery of an academically-ineligible player, who competed in last Friday’s District 10 Class A consolation contest.
Kennedy Catholic edged Eisenhower in double-OT, 66-62, earning a berth in the statewide tournament. The Golden Eagles were to meet District 9 champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium in the opening round; instead, Eisenhower will represent D-10 as its 3rd-place team.
Raiders win 17th region title; 11 locals to Hershey
When Reynolds senior Levi Stoyer came off the mat after his 145-pound championship at the Northwest AA Regional Championships, he wasn’t celebrating his second straight crown. Instead, he turned to head coach Casey Taylor and said, “I did it for the team.”
And the team needed it!
Stoyer defeated Brookville’s Zach Vroman, 3-0, and sent Reynolds on its way to the school’s 17th region team title Saturday night at Sharon High School. Reynolds finished with 147 points, to Brookville’s 138.
Hickory girls capture 1st district title since 1983
MEADVILLE — Depending upon peoples’ perceptions, 31 years can seem like a lifetime ... but so can 16 minutes.
Hickory High girls’ basketball program’s District 10 drought ended Saturday afternoon as perennial power Villa Maria virtually vanished from the 2nd-half scoreboard.
The Lady Hornets erased a 7-point halftime deficit by yielding just 4 second-half points en route to a 39-24 victory over Villa Maria in the District 10 Class AAA championship game.
KC beats Cochranton for 4th straight D-10 crown
MEADVILLE — Everybody is on April Bocian’s bandwagon — and rightly so. But Tatum Kress helped keep Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball program atop District 10’s Class A competition.
Kress connected for all 14 of her points during the 2nd half Saturday afternoon, keying the Kennedy Catholic to a 49-38 conquest of Cochranton.
McLane rallies to beat Mercer in AA title tilt
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
WM captures 3rd straight D-10 crown
EDINBORO — The West Middlesex Big Reds did it again! For the third straight year, the Big Reds, under the leadership of head coach Chad Mild, the winningest coach in West Middlesex school history, won the District 10 title with a thrilling 55-54 victory over the Fairview Tigers on Friday night at McComb Field House.
Farrell beats East for D-10 Class AAA title
MEADVILLE — Malik Miller was playing with a broken hand, but broke the hearts of East High’s basketball team.
Sophomore sharpshooter Miller mustered 19 markers — tossing in 4 from beyond the arc — helping forge Farrell to the District 10 Class AAA championship, 83-78.
Raiders hold lead at Northwest AA Region Tourney
Reynolds coach Casey Taylor had a simple, but fitting comment after the opening night of the Northwest AA Region Wrestling Championships at Sharon High School Friday:
“So far; so good!”
The defending champion Raiders, who are seeking a 17th region crown in school history, jumped into the team lead with 45 points Friday, heading second place Brookville with 35.
KC beats Ike in 2OT; Raiders fall
The Kennedy Catholic boys advanced to the PIAA Class A playoffs with a thrilling 66-62 double-overtime win against Eisenhower at Edinboro University in the District 10 consolation game on Friday night.
In Class AA, Mercyhurst Prep ended the season of the Reynolds Raiders with a 64-44 win at Slippery Rock University.
Brookfield boys, girls hoops teams ousted
ä Newton Falls 47, Brookfield 45 — At Newton Falls Friday night, coach Bill Kovach’s Warriors (13-10) suffered a tough playoff loss to the Tigers (14-9).
Brookfield led 18-8 at the end of the 1st quarter, but NF cut the lead to 26-22 at halftime. The Tigers outscored Brookfield 16-5 in the 3rd quarter and held off the Warriors in the 4th for the victory.
Roundup: Hickory, Mercer, KC girls to play for titles
ä Hickory 62, Mercyhurst Prep 42 — At West Middlesex High School, the Hickory Hornets punched their ticket to the District 10 championship game with a 62-42 semifinal victory over the Lady Lakers of Mercyhurst Prep.
“It’s a great feeling to get to the championship game,” said Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “This is what we’ve been working towards. It’s a reflection of the hard work of these girls.”
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