Devenney stands four wins from State goldState Wrestling Preview

By on March 7, 2012

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

Warwick junior Tom Devenney and Westmont Hilltop senior Josh Duplin have never met, but the two heavyweight wrestlers have a couple of things in common.

They each have 34 wins.

Both grapplers defeated Big Spring senior Dakota Matthews, a District Three Triple-A qualifier, by a 3-2 decision this year.

And last but not least, they have a first-round matchup against one another when the PIAA State Triple-A Championships get underway today (Thursday) at 4 p.m. at the Giant Center in Hershey. The PIAA Tournament will then continue Friday and Saturday, March 9-10.

"(Duplin) has to be decent," Warwick coach Ned Bushong said. "He’s a Regional champion … and to get that many wins, you had to have hit good people."

Devenney (34-3) is decent in his own right. A Sectional champ and the District Three bronze-medalist, Devenney became Warwick’s first State qualifier since Antonio Giorgio in 2010. Currently, he is ranked eighth according to thepapowerrankings.com.

"I expect him to do well," Bushong said. "Nothing is out of reach."

Winning the first State wrestling crown in Warwick history is not out of reach. But to do so, Devenney will have to get past Duplin (34-1), the Northwest Region champ and a fifth-place State medalist in 2011 who is currently ranked fourth on the papowerrankings.com.

Matthews is the only common opponent that Devenney and Duplin have faced this year. Duplin defeated Matthews 3-2 in the semis of the Escape The Rock Tournament on his way to the 285-pound championship, while Devenney knocked off the Bulldogs’ senior 3-2 in the District Three third-place match.

"Just looking at the scores he had in some of his matches, he looks like he might be a thrower," Bushong said. He’s had some quick falls … (Tom)’s seen that in quite a few of the heavyweights he’s wrestled. There’s a lot of them that try to go upper body."

The winner of that first-round match will get a quarter-final round bout against either Hopewell junior Damon Sims Jr. (33-4) or St. Joe’s Prep junior Paul Johnson (25-1).

Chambersburg senior Dawson Peck (10-0). the State silver medalist in 2011 who beat reigning champ Averee Robinson (38-3) of Susquehanna Township in the District Three finals, could await in the semi-finals. Peck and Robinson are the top two ranked wrestlers in the State Triple-A rankings.

"He’s just going to have to keep away from getting any big moves on him," Bushong said. "At this point, everybody there is good. There may be somebody that’s a little weaker in a weight class than the others, but they’re all good at this point."

The only wrestler in the heavyweight brackets that Devenney has met this season is Robinson, and the Indians’ senior caught him in a headlock for a first-period fall at the New Oxford Tournament.

Freedom’s Tyler Peerson, the Northeast Region bronze-medalist, placed fourth at the Bethlehem Holiday Classic in December where Warwick also competed, but Devenney didn’t wrestle there due to a shoulder injury he sustained during football season.

"I didn’t think he was ready to go up there into that tournament and have to go six, seven matches," Bushong said. "We just held him out and gave him an extra week and a half to get it back in shape."

Since winning the District bronze, Devenney has had a week and a half to prepare for the State Championships and Bushong is optimistic about him winning a State medal.

"I really think (Tom’s chances) are good," Bushong said. "He’s a good strong heavyweight, his conditioning is good, his strength is good. He’s pretty agile on his feet. It’s just a combination of things. If we have a good week and he stays healthy, we’ll be fine."

Devenney is coming off a District Three Tournament in which he allowed just one takedown and one reversal in six bouts. So he will obviously be hoping to continue that trend at the Giant Center.

"His riding is good, he’s strong off the bottom, and he’s been good on his feet," Bushong said. "At this level, giving up a takedown can be the difference of winning or losing a match. So all we can do is work on it and hope that everything goes right for him."

There were a lot of things that went right for Devenney at Districts, where he notched each of his five wins by just one point.

Four more like that, although nerve-wracking, would be just fine with Bushong.

"A win is a win," Bushong laughed. "It doesn’t matter if it’s one point or five points — as long as you win. At this point, it’s who is hot. If (Tom) goes in there and has a good couple of days if he gets off to a good start … he’s four matches away from being a State champion. But that’s an awful long way. We’re there and once you’re there, anything can happen." More DEVENNEY, page B-4

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