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Charles, Woolley capture first Sectional crowns Five Warriors qualify for Districts
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The lyrics to Eminem’s Lose Yourself belted through Josh Charles’ earbuds last Saturday.
"The moment, you own it, you better never let it go …"
The Warwick junior, in fact, didn’t let go of the moment in the 113-pound championship match in the District Three Class AAA Section Three Wrestling Tournament at Hempfield. Charles scored a takedown with 35 seconds left in the second period and held on for a 5-4 win over Solanco’s Austin Laws, giving him his first Sectional title and a number one seed in this weekend’s District Championships.
Just three weeks earlier, those same two grapplers squared off for the L-L League crown in a match that Charles won 6-4 in OT.
"This and Leagues were my two favorite things this year," said Charles, who improved his record to 35-5. "Winning Leagues was nice, but I think (winning Sectionals) feels a little bit better going into Districts."
Warwick senior Steve Woolley grabbed hold of the moment in the 160-pound finals, capturing his first Sectional gold medal with a 7-2 win over Penn Manor’s Ashton Leschke. In addition to improving his record to 33-6, Woolley, who wrestled last year at Fishburne Military School, captured his 99th career win.
Like Charles, Woolley was the top seed in his weight class and he proved worthy of it.
While acknowledging that there’s a little bit of pressure that goes with that top ranking, Woolley said, "You don’t want to get upset, but you’ve just got to go out there and wrestle … it feels good (to win)."
Overall, the Warriors went 2-for-3 in the finals, as Solanco’s Connor Sheehan claimed his second straight 106-pound Sectional gold by defeating freshman Devin Schnupp 10-3 in the championship match.
Schnupp (36-2), Charles and Woolley will be joined by sophomore Austin Maguire (20-11) and senior Tom Devenney (34-2), who won the bronze medal at 220 and 285, respectively. Senior Ryan Gray (26-12), the number three seed at 170, fell just one win short after dropping a 5-2 loss to Conestoga Valley’s Ryan Brooks (27-16) in the third-place match.
Warwick’s five District qualifiers represents two more than they had last year. The District Championships are this Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23 in the Hersheypark Arena.
"The big thing is we’ve got five going to next week," Warwick coach Ned Bushong said. "Three of them are underclassmen, so that’s always good. I would have liked to have a couple more, but it wasn’t to be."
One of those underclassmen is Charles. He got a scare in his first-round match, holding off McCaskey’s Jose Vera 9-7, but then he decked Hempfield’s Aidyn Miller (26-13) in 4:31 to set up the rematch with Laws (21-9). Tied 2-2, the Mules’ number two seed went on top thanks to his second reversal of the match with 1:30 left in the middle stanza. But following an escape, Charles got a takedown at the edge of the mat with 35 seconds to go in the period to grab a one-point lead going to the third.
"I was able to inside trip his leg," Charles recalled, "and I got my two feet in and I had my arm around the other leg for two."
The third period, though, wasn’t without some anxious moments for him. Taking down to start the period, Laws tried to set Charles up for a tilt in the opening 30 seconds, but the Warwick junior was able to fight it off.
"I was a little worried because I knew it was going to be a long two minutes if I kept fighting off tilts like that," Charles said. "But I was able to get my hands free and create some space, just enough not to get tilted."
Laws ended up riding Charles for the entire period with no success scoring back points. Charles received a stalling warning with 14 seconds to go, but held on for the win.
"(Laws) was tough on top," he said. "He was tying up my arms a little, so it was pretty tough to get out. But I just fought to not get turned."
Penn Manor’s Leschke wasn’t as fortunate against Woolley in the 160-pound finals. After Woolley had taken a 2-1 first period lead on a single-leg takedown, the Comets’ number two-seeded sophomore (27-10) tied it on a second-period escape and then went for a throw late in the stanza. Instead, it was Woolley who got a four-point takedown to take a lead he never relinquished.
"(Leschke) tried to hit a lateral drop and was just out of position, so he kinda fell more or less," Woolley said. "He was getting desperate. He wanted to score some points."
Up 6-2 after two periods, Woolley took down to begin the third and escaped, giving him more than enough for his first Sectional title.
"Woolley dominated the weight class," Bushong added. "He did a real nice job."
That domination included a 23-second fall of Hempfield’s Brady Mathias (4-8) in the quarters, followed by a 5-1 decision over Manheim Central’s Tyler Rhoads (14-10) in the semi-finals. In dual-meet action on Jan. 31, Rhoads defeated Woolley 16-4, so the Warwick senior was looking forward to the rematch.
"I dropped weight to 152 (in the dual meet) and I had the spins and I was deyhdrated," he said. "I should have won, but it happens. Everybody has an off night … I was excited (to face him at Sectionals) because I thought I could beat him and I did."
Looking ahead to Districts, Woolley said, "(My goal is) top four. I’ve got a couple studs up there, but I should be able to fit in there … or at least, I hope."
Schnupp, too, is hoping to fit into the top four in the 106-pound weight class at Districts. That could mean a third meeting against the Golden Mules’ Sheehan (29-4), who advanced to the District semi-finals at 106 last year.
In their first meeting this season, Schnupp took a 6-4 lead into the third period before suffering a heartbreaking 9-6 loss to Sheehan. Looking to gain some revenge last Saturday night, the Warwick freshman’s takedown with 1:38 to go in the second cut his deficit to 3-2. But Sheehan answered with a pair of takedowns to go ahead 8-3 heading to the third, and then completed the scoring with his fourth takedown of the match with :24 left.
"(Devin) couldn’t get anything going, not like what we were hoping for," Bushong remarked. "It’s hard to say (why). Maybe it might have been that Sheehan was up a little bit more than he was the last time they wrestled. I think the last time, he thought it was going to be a walk over."
Schnupp had a couple walk overs in his first two bouts, dominating McCaskey’s Jonathan Ortiz (14-12) in his opening-round match and then earning a 10-2 major against Conestoga Valley’s Jose Morales (30-7) in the semis.
Devenney, meanwhile, had to get past Morales’ teammate Joey Bragg (22-7) to punch his ticket to Districts. He scored all he needed in the first period, as Bragg went for a headlock and missed, enabling Devenney to capitalize for a 2-0 lead.
"I shot in on a single and he sorta lifted me up a little bit and went for the headlock and I ducked it out, probably because I was a little sweaty," Devenney said. "I would say it’s part of the strategy to get a little sweat going before the match so he can’t grab onto you, especially at heavyweight. But I just poked my head out and ended up on top."
He still led 4-0 through two periods and then finished off his 6-0 win with a takedown in the third period. A PIAA State qualifier last year, Devenney remained calm despite the win-or-go-home consequences.
"This is my second sport," said Devenney, who will play football at Penn State University as a run-on, "so anything that I do in this sport is just a little bonus. So making it to Districts is outstanding. If I wouldn’t have made it, hey, I’ve had a heck of a career. It would be sad to walk away at this point, but I mean, it’s tough around here. It’s something you’ve got to understand when you sign up."
That tough competition was evident in the semi-finals, where Hempfield’s Joey Goodhart (32-3), the number three seed, upended Devenney 6-4 in OT. Devenney prevailed over the Black Knights’ junior in two tight matches earlier this season, but Goodhart’s single-leg takedown with 52 seconds to go in sudden-victory OT was the difference. Goodhart went on to beat Solanco’s top-seeded Bo Spiller 3-2 in the finals and won the Outstanding Wrestler Award.
"We all finished in different positions at Leagues and I think we’re probably going to do the same thing at Districts and we’re probably going to be the top three at Districts," said Devenney, who won the Sectional crown as a junior. "So, I mean, it really goes to show the depth in the L-L League at heavyweight this year. Everyone is trying to bump up and move around to avoid (Solanco’s two-time PIAA State champ Thomas) Haines (at 220), so it really strengthens the weight class a lot."
Maguire is certainly familiar with Haines (30-1). The two faced each other for the third time this season in Saturday’s 220-pound semi-finals and Solanco’s junior star recorded a fall in 51 seconds. But Maguire rebounded in strong fashion, snapping a 2-2 tie against Central’s Peter Michael (15-20) with an escape and takedown in the second period before winning by fall in 2:17.
That set up a rematch with Penn Manor’s Zeb Pfeiffer (28-12) for the bronze and a trip to Districts. In the quarter-finals, Maguire got the upper hand with a 3-1 decision. This time, Pfeiffer took a 4-3 lead on a takedown with 37 seconds left in the third. But Maguire forced the action and got the equalizer on a stalling call, and then his escape with just nine seconds left was the difference in a 5-4 victory, clinching his first trip to Hershey.
"I faced him earlier in the year and I knew I could get out of bottom if I isolated a hand," Maguire said. "I knew I had to get out or else I’d be done and (following the stalling call), if I didn’t get out, I’d still go into overtime and I was fine with that. I just wanted to keep wrestling."
"Huge relief," he said. "I’ve been working for it all season, working with Tom (Devenney), a State qualifier last year, and he told me I could do it and I listened to him and I knew I could." More WARRIORS, page B-6