Ken Wunderley reports on Saturday's Allegheny County tournament. Read his story below.
(Photo: Jake Woodley of North Allegheny records a major decision over Eli Grape Upper St. Clair at 195 pounds in the Allegheny County tournament at Fox Chapel. Ken Wunderley/Tri-State Sports & News Service)
North Allegheny was short-handed this weekend for the Allegheny County tournament, but, when it ended Saturday night at Fox Chapel High School, the Tigers still claimed the team title for the fourth time in five years.
The Tigers had four starters out of the lineup. Luke Landefeld and Sean Hoover were out with injuries, while teammates Zach Stedeford and Jake Hinkson had the flu. Hinkson had won two previous county titles, while Landefeld was a one-time champ.
"We certainly were short-handed," said North Allegheny's Jake Woodley, who won the feature bout of the finals. "It's great that we were still able to win the team title."
Woodley, a PIAA Class 3A champion currently ranked No. 1 in the state at 195 pounds, faced Upper St. Clair's Eli Grape, who is ranked No. 2, and recorded an impressive 14-4 win.
"I wanted to dominate him," Woodley said. "I saw [former teammate] Francis Duggan beat him pretty bad at states last year. I knew he would want to keep it close, so I had to open it up on offense."
Woodley was joined atop the winners platform by Eric Hong, who claimed the 160-pound title with an 11-3 victory against Bethel Park's Jason Montgomery.
The major-decision victories by Woodley and Hong gave North Allegheny the final two points it needed to claim the team title. The Tigers outscored Shaler, 179.5-177.5.
Pine-Richland's Hunter Baxter was the only wrestler in the tournament to earn a fourth consecutive trip to the finals. Baxter claimed his third title with a 10-1 win against Shaler's Garrett Reinsfelder at 132.
"The more the merrier," Baxter said. "This is my favorite tournament. I've been coming here since I was little. To win three times means so much to me."
Baxter was joined atop the winners platform by teammate Alex Salas, who made his third appearance in the finals and won his second title with a 7-3 win against Shaler's Dylan Winters at 120.
Also claiming a second title was Bethel Park's Nino Bonaccorsi, who made his third appearance in the finals. Bonaccorsi recorded a 20-5 technical fall in the 182-pound final against Fox Chapel's Mike Mahon.
Baldwin had two champions for the first time in the tournament's 16-year history. Amir Muhammad won the 113-pound title and was named Outstanding Wrestler after a 13-1 win against North Allegheny's Jacob Downing. Highlanders teammate Gehrig Hutchinson followed with a 4-2 win against Montour's Dante Presutti at 170.
"It means the world to me to win this tournament," Muhammad said. "I've put [in] a lot of hard work and effort ,and it's finally paying off."
Shaler had four wrestlers in the finals, but only one came home with a gold medal. Ron D'Amico claimed the 220-pound title with an 11-8 win against Chartiers Valley's Shamil Zaynullaev at 220.
"It was a tough tournament," D'Amico said. "I placed third last year, so it's great to finally win."