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WPIAL Sends Seven to PIAA Finals, Crowns Five Champs

WPIAL Sends Seven to PIAA Finals, Crowns Five Champs

The WPIAL showed its collective strength Friday, March 12th, at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Of the 14 Class-2A District 7 competitors that punched a ticket to Hershey this weekend, seven made it to the PIAA finals, five of whom came home as 2021 PIAA state champions: Burrell’s AJ Corrado (160), Laurel’s Grant Mackay (152), Mount Pleasant’s Dayton Pitzer (215), Frazier’s Rune Lawrence (172), and South Park’s Joey Fischer (126) all won gold.

The Burrell Bucs placed freshman Cooper Hornack (106), and seniors Ian Oswalt (138), and AJ Corrado (160) in the finals.  Despite having a tournament-high three guys in the final round of the championship bracket, Corrado was the lone gold medalist, earning his first PIAA crown in his final high school bout. Corrado, a Brown University commit, used a pancake to secure a fall in sudden victory over  Avery Bassett of Midd-West. With that, Corrado concludes his 2021 campaign a perfect 34-0 and a 155-35 mark over his prep career.

Fellow senior, Oswalt, was on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision in an all-WPIAL finals bout against fellow District 7 star, senior Brock McMillen of Glendale. The resulted represents Oswalt’s sixth loss to McMillen over the course of their respective high school careers. This one though, was  one of the closest to date. McMillen escaped Oswalt seven seconds into the second frame and that proved to be the deciding factor in the match.

The narrow one-point win gave McMillen his third PIAA crown, drawing both excitement and praise from his future college coach, Pitt’s Keith Gavin, and future teammate, 133-pounder, Micky Phillippi.

Conversely, Mackay, a sophomore who transferred to Laurel after a solid freshman season at Class-3A North Allegheny in 2020, was on the winning end of a 1-0. Despite the second-year’s failure to place in Hershey in last year, he won it all in 2021. He authored a 1-0 decision victory over Hamburg’s Dalton Gimbor. Once again, a successful escape in period two was the difference in the match. Staying calm was key, according to Mackay.

Pitzer, the only returning PIAA title-holder amongst the 14 WPIAL entrants, came into the tournament red hot. The Mount Pleasant big man (42-2) won the Class 2A 182-pound title as a freshman in 2019 before missing his entire sophomore season with a knee injury. This year, the junior  took home his second crown in as many attempts, this one coming at 215 pounds.

Pitzer started his 2021 tournament with a fall over Savauri Shelton of Bermudian Springs, Pitzer’s 14th pin in a row and his 31st of the season. While his pinning streak came to a and at 14, Pitzer recorded equally decisive wins in his next two matches. First the Mount Pleasant Viking blanked Tamaqua’s Nate Wickersham 12-0. Then, in the finals he beat Dylan Bennett of Montoursville convincingly, 6-1, to claim his second title. Bennett’s one point, an escape, was the only point Pitzer surrendered all tournament. With the win, the junior improves his career record to 85-3 in two full seasons of action.

Frazier freshman phenom Rune Lawrence (30-1) went 3-0 in route to his first PIAA title, which came at 172 pounds. With that Lawrence becomes the first freshman since Pitzer to claim an individual PIAA championship at a weight above 152 pounds since 2019 when Pitzer did so at 182 pounds.

The lanky freshman has a pin in the opening round, his 18th of the season. He followed that fall up with two wins by decision. In the finals, Lawrence faced a familiar foe in Penns Valley senior Malachi Duvall. The pair met in the finals of the last three postseason events. Lawrence won on every occasion. The previous two matchups came down to the wire, so too did their matchup at the Giant Center.

The first wrestler out of the WPIAL to stand atop the awards stand Friday evening was South Park senior Joey Fischer. Last year, Fischer felt the pain of a silver medal runner-up finish. This year, in his final chance to capture a PIAA gold medal, the future Clarion University Golden Eagle did exactly that. He took down Muncy’s Scott Johnson in the first-place match, improving to 24-0 on the season in the process.

With respect to the team race, Notre Dame – Green Pond finished first, followed by Montoursville in second and Burrell in third. Southern The Columba Tigers and Brookville Raiders round out the top five schools in the team race.

Looking Ahead to Class-3A

The 3A state tournament will get going Saturday, March 13. The field will feature 29 WPIAL wrestlers. Matches will begin at 8:30 a.m. Here are some useful links to prepare you for the action.

A What to Watch for story can be found here.

A complete list of every WPIAL wrestler in action in Hershey can be found here, courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

FloWrestling also put together a participant heat map and a detailed breakdown of PA participant field. You can find Flo’s analysis here.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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