CM celebrates title
CM relishes title before setting out for states
Until Canon-McMillan opens defense of its PIAA team title on Feb. 7, the Big Macs relished the achievement they made last Saturday, Feb. 2 at Chartiers Valley. When they defeated Franklin Regional, 31-26, the Big Macs captured their fourth straight WPIAL team championship. They became the first Class AAA wrestling club to win that many titles in a row.
“We wanted this so badly,” said CM head coach Chris Mary. “All of these boys left it all on the mat for this team. They showed lots of heart and gave gutsy performances.”
“We made history,” added a thrilled Connor Schram. “We went 4-for-4.”
Now the Big Macs try for two in a row at the state level. Last year, CM won the PIAA Class AA title, ending Central Dauphin’s four-year reign. The Big Macs, who also won the state team title during the individual championships, beat Central Dauphin, 28-25, in the semifinals before they defeated Erie McDowell, 35-20, in the final.
Central Dauphin (20-0) returns to the PIAA team tournament as do the Big Macs (15-0) but since the two teams are at the top and bottom of the brackets they could only meet in the finals set for Feb. 9 at the Giant Center in Hershey. But the road to the finals is paved with pitfalls. McDowell is in CM’s half of the bracket as is Easton, La Salle College and Downington East.
“We have a very tough side of the bracket and we can face last year’s finalist in the second round,” said Mary. “All the teams are solid at this level, including our WPIAL teams. They are ones to watch.
“It’s one match at a time,” Mary continued. “It won’t be easy.”
Securing the district title certainly didn’t come easy.
After dispatching Ringgold, 56-9, and Hampton, 48-28, on their home mats in the opening rounds of the WPIAL tournament, the Big Macs traveled down I-79 to Chartiers Valley where they outlasted Kiski Area, 36-24, in the semifinals and knocked off the Panthers in the finals.
The championship match, which was tied twice and featured five lead swings, went down to the last bout before CM secured its spot in WPIAL wrestling lore. At 120 pounds, Dalton Macri pinned Don Turner in one minute.
Of Macri’s performance Mary said, “Dalton is a leader in the (mat) room, classroom and in life. He’s a total team player and a fine captain for this team. He has a bright future ahead of him on and off the mats.”
Only one other pin was registered in the match. While it came at a surprise weight, the victory was not a shock. Wrestling up from his normal 170-pound slot, Cody Wiercioch won by fall at 195. The Pitt recruit and reigning state champion, polished off Justin Rose in 2:27 to close a once 12-point gap to 20-17.
The Big Macs changed things up a bit in the other two heavier weight classes and those match-ups also proved pivotal. CM’s normal heavyweight, Angelo Broglia, wrestled at 220 and scored a 6-3 decision over Brett Zanotto, while Alex Campbell moved from 220 to 285 and battled even with Luke Fleck until losing an ultimate tiebreaker decision, 3-2.
Doffing his cap to his assistant, Glenn Haynes, for the line-up changes, Mary noted that the bonus points CM saved were “so important.”
Vital to CM’s triumph, too, were two technical falls by Brendon Price at 106 and Schram at 132 as well as decisions by Sammy Minor at 160 and Steve LaFrance at 8-1.
Despite defeats in their matches, Josh Minor, Josiah Hritsko, Nick Oberhaus, Alex Hutchin, William Pihiou, and Nick Konyk wrestled well and made contributions to the championship.
“We wanted this so badly for the kids,” said Mary. “There were lots of heroes on this team.”
Heroes were a plenty, too, as the Big Macs eliminated Kiski Area (16-2) in the semifinals. To beat the Cavaliers, CM overcame a 10-0 deficit. By stringing together falls by Joshua Minor and Schram, a tech fall by Price and a forfeit to Macri, the Big Macs forged ahead, 23-10.
Though the Cavaliers pulled to within five, 26-21, by winning three of the next four bouts, with Alec Hutchin getting the lone CM decision at 138, a major decision from Sammy Minor and a fall by Wiercioch sealed the victory.
“This team is very special,” Mary said. “I’m very blessed to lead such a great group of students athletes and blessed to have so much support from my coaching staff, administration and school board. Plus, we have the best fans in wrestling.”