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:
Breese defends heavyweight title at PIAA Championships
HERSHEY, Pa. — Move over Rod Wright!
Lakeview senior heavyweight star Sam Breese had a goal coming into the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center — besides winning a second state crown, that is.
WM knocks off Neshannock in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — The notion of Trey Staunch sneaking up on opposing teams is laughable. At 6-foot-3 and approximately 225 pounds, the stout Staunch is not sneaking up on anyone.
However after posting a game-high 31-point, 18-rebound performance in West Middlesex High basketball team’s 76-66 PIAA Class AA playoffs opening-round win over Neshannock Saturday night, Staunch said opponents may have been overlooking the Big Reds.
Hickory girls 26-0, oust Johnstown
SLIPPERY ROCK — At Morrow Field House Saturday evening, the Hickory Lady Hornets kept the perfect season alive with a 63-37 state playoff first round win over the Greater Johnstown Trojans from District 6.
“It feels great to get the win (Saturday),” said veterans Hickory coach Jeanette Whitehead. “We’ve been at this place over the last few years and we’ve been sent home in the first round so it was a huge win for us. I’m very proud of our team effort."
KC girls roll past California in PIAA playoffs
SLIPPERY ROCK — Kennedy Catholic High girls’ basketball team was in the ’hood Saturday afternoon.
Led by senior Taylor Hood, the Lady Golden Eagles eased past California, 53-34, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Lakeview's Breese to defend PIAA title
HERSHEY, Pa. — If you are Major League Baseball player, a .333 batting average is great. But in wrestling at the state tournament — not so much!
Out of the dozen wrestlers that Mercer County sent to Hershey for the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships, only four (.333) will reach the medal stand today — led by Lakeview senior Sam Breese who shoots for a second straight gold medal.
Farrell edges Montour, 60-57, in PIAA opener
Montour High boys’ basketball coach Adam Kaufman lamented another season-ending setback. However there are several hundred coaches across the Commonwealth who envy his program’s recent success and would trade places with him in a heartbeat.
But during Friday night’s PIAA Class AAA playoff opener, Kaufman & Co. could not overcome those streaky Steelers ... those survivin’ Steelers.
“ ... Hey, survive and move on,” summarized Steelers’ skipper Roland Shannonhouse following Farrell’s 60-57 win at Sharon High.
GCC ousts Mercer in 1st round of PIAAs
The Mercer Lady Mustangs were outscored 16-4 in the final quarter of the first round of the state playoffs by the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions, ending their season Friday night 56-31 at Sharon High School.
Senior Lexie Arkwright had a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double performance for the Lady M’s. She also snagged three steals. Adelyn Cook and Haylie Glass each added 4 points for Mercer.
5 area matmen to quarterfinals in Hershey
HERSHEY — Mercer County matmen had mixed results on the opening day of action in the PIAA State Class AA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.
Only 5 of the county’s dozen entries — led by defending state champ Sam Breese of Lakeview (285) — won their preliminary matches to move into the tournament quarterfinals which begin at 9 a.m. today. However the other 7 lost their first matches, although 3 are still alive in the consolations heading into this morning’s action.
Coach Chad Mild's Big Reds are road warriors
West Middlesex High boys basketball team did not play its first home game until after the first of the year, but competing at New Castle, Farrell and Youngstown’s Covelli Centre has served it well.
Witness West Middlesex’s 55-54 win over Fairview in last weekend’s District 10 Class AA championship game — at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Boys PIAA basketball preview boxes
Who: Farrell (22-3) vs. Montour (16-8).
What: Opening round.
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Sharon High’s Tiger Gymnasium.
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.
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