As Saturday, Feb. 20th came to a close, it marked the end to the first true week of individual postseason action for PIAA wrestlers. In 2021, the he first foray into playoff grappling was more grueling than ever before. However, the more challenging format didn’t stop Burrell’s Ian Oswalt from placing his name in the annals WPIAL wrestling history as the latest four-time WPIAL champ.
In accordance with COVID-19 protocols and procedures, WPIAL wrestling committee added a subsection round to its individual tournaments to be in line with the PIAA’s guideline of having no more than eight participants in a tournament.
This adjustment merely created a daunting week of wrestling for Class-2A and Class 3A-wrestlers alike. Essentially, athletes took part in two separate tournaments over a five-day span – something not everyone was thrilled about.
Not a fan of this format for states or even Districts … so many good wrestlers that are capable of playing spoiler get left out and visa versa if a stud has a bad match he gets penalized with a shortened season … bad decision by PIAA #CovidWasJustAnExcuse
— WrestlingJesus1 (@WrestlingJesus1) February 20, 2021
Earlier this week (Feb. 16-18), athletes competed in various subsection tournaments. At these events, the top two finishers advanced to the section tournament on Feb. 19-20.
sorry, but someone had to say it. this system is so flawed, watching a top 8 kid in the state not make it out of SECTIONS is unbelievable. Down right horrible system.👎
— Chanz Shearer (@ChanzShearer1) February 20, 2021
Here are some of the highlights from an action-packed weekend on the mats:
The marquee headline heading into the weekend in Class-2A was that Trent Schultheis (Freedom), Ian Oswalt (Burrell) and Tyler Cymmerman (Derry) were all vying to become a part of WPIAL history. Each had won three WPIAL titles and were all in pursuit of a fourth.
Historically speaking, In the 86 years since the WPIAL first sponsored wrestling championships in 1936, only 30 individuals have joined the four-timers club. This weekend, that number rose to 31 as Burrell’s Oswalt (18-0) defeated Ligonier Valley junior Ryan Harbert, 10-5, in the 138-pound final. Oswalt defeated Harbert, 6-3, in the Section 3 final Friday.
This weekend @TheWhizzerOfOz captured his 4th WPIAL title and recorded his 158th career win. His final victory secured him a spot in the top 5 career wins for Burrell Wrestling! This win passed HWT State Champion Al Beattie who had 158 career victories!
— Burrell Wrestling (@BurrellWrestlin) February 21, 2021
The weekend couldn’t have gone much better for the Bucs as a team either. The Class-2A WPIAL team champions saw their squad a perfect 4-for-4 in the individual WPIAL finals, highlighted by senior Ian Oswalt becoming the 31st wrestler to win four WPIAL titles. He also is the third Burrell wrestler to accomplish that feat. With the title, Oswalt joins that elite group, which includes Burrell’s Joe Makara (2000-03) and Jordan Shields (2005-08).
As for Schultheis and Cymmerman weren’t so lucky, both falling short of the coveted fourth crown. Cymmerman dropped a 5-2 decision to Blackhawk’s Kenny Duschek in the 145-pound final. It was the second title for Duschek, who claimed his first title last season for Freedom. The future Ivy League wrestler (Columbia) is now the first wrestler in Blackhawk history to win a WPIAL title.
Congrats @DuschekKenny 💪 First ever champ from Blackhawk
— The WPIAL Wrestling (@WPIALwrestle7) February 20, 2021
Waynesburg and Burrell Continue to Dominate
On Feb. 13, the top two teams in both Class-2A (Burrell) and Class-3A (Waynesburg) cruised to respective WPIAL team crowns in matches that weren’t close. This weekend, both squads were strong once again.
Waynesburg was able to advance 12 of its 13 starters out of subsection round and into the WPIAL 3A individual section tournament at Canon-McMillan Saturday afternoon – all 12 claimed section titles.
The lone starter to not make it was the defending section champ, junior Noah Tustin, who wrestled in the 215-pound weight class. Tustin placed third in a subsection tournament that saw four of the WPIAL’s top-seven wrestlers.
285: Waynesburg’s Ryan Howard is the Section-4 Champ!
— RAIDER NATION (@WBG_RAIDERS) February 20, 2021
With respect to the Burrell Bucs, the top-rated team in 2A, they saw four crowned WPIAL champs, including Oswalt (138) senior AJ Corrado (160), who claimed his second WPIAL title was and freshman Cooper Hornack (106), and sophomore Nike Ferra (120) claimed their first titles.
Other Repeat WPIAL Winners
South Park senior Joey Fischer (126) won his third WPIAL title with a strong 12-3 decision over Burgettstown’s Joey Sentipal. Duschek earned his second, Mount Pleasant’s Dayton Pitzer (215) and Laurel senior heavyweight Mitch Miles also recorded their second titles as well. Pitzer needed only 37 seconds to pin Knoch’s Eli Reese in the 215-pound title to win his second title in three years. Miles pinned Pitzer’s teammate, Ian Fasano, at 2:43 to win his second heavyweight title.
Four Freshman Claim Titles
Four freshmen won titles: Burrell’s Cooper Hornack (at 106); Bentworth’s Chris Vargo (113); Mount Pleasant’s Jamison Poklembo (132) and Frazier’s Rune Lawrence (172).
Lawrence has made quite an impression on the high school wrestling scene in his rookie season. The lanky Frazier freshman continues what has been a sensational season thus far. After his first-period fall in the WPIAL Class 2A 172-pound championship match, Lawrence improves to 21-1 with 14 pins on the year. His only loss this season came in the Powerade 54 finals to a Dillon Walker of La Salle College High School in Ohio. Rune is the younger brother of former Frazier standout Thayne Lawrence, who is now a freshman wrestler at Lehigh. Thayne became the 30th four-time WPIAL champ last year in 2020 for the Commodores.
— Buck Watkins (@MindsetCoachBW) February 21, 2021
The top three finishers in each weight class advance to the Southwest Regional Saturday at IUP. Below is a schedule of other important dates for the 2021 wrestling season.