Canon-McMillan claims second straight PIAA wrestling title

Published Feb 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm (Updated Feb 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm)

When Canon-McMillan clinched a second straight state championship in wrestling this past weekend, Chris Mary experienced the afterlife.

“I’m standing at the gates of heaven. Taking it all in,” he said exuberant. “My joy is incredible. It’s been an amazing, amazing journey.”

Never has Mary or the Big Macs experienced such exhilaration as when Brendan Price edged Zach Elvin, 4-3, in the final bout of the PIAA Class AAA team championship match, giving Canon-McMillan a dramatic victory, 34-31, over Central Dauphin at the Giant Center in Hershey.

“This is one of the best days of my entire life,” said Mary. “This one brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.”

Before taking to the mat, a lump formed in Price’s throat. Twice, he had battled Elvin, suffering losses of 8-5 in last year’s state semifinals of the team tournament and 13-2 during this winter’s Powerade Wrestling Tournament.

“I was really nervous because I knew this would be a close match,” said Price. “But then I thought this would be a good opportunity. He was ranked second in the state and I got excited. My teammates were great. They told me they would support me, that they would still love me no matter what.”

Today, the Big Macs love the 126-pound grappler even more, particular for his grit and his determination.

“(Brendan) showed so much confidence in his approach to the match especially under the circumstances,” Mary said. “He just felt the chemistry of the people backing him. He felt the love of his coaches, his teammates and fans. That inspired him.”

Price immediately jumped ahead of Elvin, 2-0. Though Elvin tied the bout, Price again opened up a two-point advantage before settling on the one-point decision.

“Brendan’s truly a gifted wrestler. He took it to the next level,” said Mary of the bout. “When you get to watch the replay, you can see in Brendan the determination and confidence. He was destined to win for his teammates.”

Destiny drove the Big Macs.

“The ultimate goal was to win a state championship,” explained Mary. Then he added of the Big Macs’ toil in the mat and weight rooms over the years.

“No one understands the preparation we put into this and what we accomplish behind closed doors.”

Yet, the results reflect the effort.

With the win, they finished a 19-0 dual meet season. The Big Macs are undefeated in two seasons, posting a 45-0 record. And, in winning four straight WPIAL titles, they have not dropped a dual meet in the district since 2009.

But, the triumph surpassed any other victory along the way. It topped the Big Macs’ win over Central Dauphin, 28-25, in last year’s state semifinal as well as their win over Erie McDowell in the 2012 championship match.

“This is the biggest sports moment in Canon-McMillan history,” Mary declared. “The greatest moment ever.”

Because it came in the last match, Price’s performance proved the most thrilling. However, there were many great moments in the championship match as well as throughout the tournament for the Big Macs.

In the finals, Central Dauphin led, 31-19, before the Canon-Mac rallied. At heavyweight, Angelo Broglia pinned Mike Ferstern to tie the match at 31. Also, Alex Campbell recorded a fall over Deitrik Ferster at 220 and Cody Wiercioch posted a technical fall, 19-4, over Steven McNeal at 182 to help the Big Macs erase the deficit.

CM constructed a 14-4 lead thanks to a pin by Dalton Macri, a tech fall from Connor Schram and a decision at 132 by Alex Hutchin before Central Dauphin chipped away at the margin.

Though Central Dauphin forged a 17-14 advantage, the margin was not greater because the Big Macs did not surrender many bonus points. While Austin Rose scored a major decision against William Pihou at 152 and Nick Konyk fell at 160, Josh Minor, Nick Oberhaus and Sam Minor kept their losses to a minimum.

“There were heroes all over the place,” said Mary. “So many people played a part. Huge roles,” he continued. “There were multiple heroes. This was a total, total team effort,” he emphasized.

With more than just wins in all their bouts, Wiercioch and Schram provided the leadership for the Big Macs, who wrestled without two key starters.

A 145-pound junior, Solomon Chishko was out with a fractured elbow that has not completely healed since he sustained the injury in a preseason tournament three months ago. Chishko was a third-place finisher in the individual state tournament last year. A 138-pound junior Malachi Krenzelak has missed the past month with an injury.

A Pitt recruit, Wiercioch picked up pins in CM’s opening tournament wins over Spring Grove, 42-22, Erie McDowell, 35-27, and Easton, 37-35, before recording a technical fall against Central Dauphin in the championship match. Bound for Stanford in the fall, Schram posted technical falls in all of CM’s tournament triumphs.

“Cody and Connor are examples to every one on the mats,” said Mary. “They set the bar so high for the other kids. They leave it all on the mat.”

In the tournament, Dalton Macri also left it all on the mat. At one point, he even fell ill during a match. “He was so riddled with flu that we had him isolated in his own room for the four days,” explained Mary of Macri’s illness. “That’s how much character is on this team. These kids gave there all.

“They truly left their blood, sweat, guts and tears on the Giant Center floor,” Mary said. “They have so much heart and soul.”

Notes: Josiah Hritsko, Steven LaFrance, Richard Vicinski, Alex Paulina and Alex Rideout also contributed to the Big Macs’ state championship run as did Mary’s assistant coaches Jason Cardillo, Pat Hudock and Glenn Haynes.

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