Confidence growing for Gateway wrestling team

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Sunday, January 7, 2018 | 11:00 PM


The young Gateway wrestling team continues to find its way in the 2017-18 season, and coach Ryan Sula said success on the mat is giving his competitors more confidence.

That was evident just after Christmas at the annual holiday tournament at West Mifflin. The Gators switched things up this season and took on the competition at West Mifflin after several years of action at Southmoreland.

Sula said things went well as nearly every wrestler won at least one match.

“More of the teams at West Mifflin are at the level we are right now,” Sula said. “The kids match up better there and get good experience. There was a round where one guy had a bye, but everyone else got a pin. I liked to see that. We brought three kids back for the second day, which was important.”

Sophomore Evan Whiteside (113 pounds) came up short in his quest for a medal at the season-opening Eastern Area tournament, but he was not denied at West Mifflin.

Whiteside advanced to the semifinals and eventually placed sixth overall with a 2-3 record.

“The 113 bracket was pretty tough. I wrestled pretty good, but I definitely could've wrestled better at the end of the tournament,” Whiteside said.

“But that's just something I can work on.”

Whiteside, 7-8 this season, toppled No. 2 Joe Dang from Carrick, 15-4, in the quarterfinals.

In the match for fifth place, he suffered a 9-4 setback to Allderdice's Troy Jacobson.

He is eyeing a medal at the upcoming Allegheny County tournament, where he was a win short of the podium last year.

The county tournament is set for Jan. 19 and 20 at Fox Chapel.

Also competing for Gateway at West Mifflin were senior Caleb Lehmen (2-2 at 170); junior Nevin Matthews (3-2 at 182); sophomores Jaired Lehman (1-2 at 138), Oscar Portis (0-2 at 145), Matt Hall (1-2 at 152), Connor McCune (1-2 at 160); and freshman Jacques Taylor (0-2 at 220).

Matthews' three victories in five matches put him at 8-8 on the season. He is 5-4 in tournaments this season, as he also went 2-2 at Eastern Areas.

Caleb Lehmen heads into January competition at the top of the wins list at 7-5 overall.

“We're working hard in the room and in matches,” Sula said. “We have some kids going to some extra AAU practices and really working at getting better each week.”

Taylor, Sula said, is getting up to speed after joining the team in mid-December when the football team's season concluded.

“It's still a process for him,” Sula said. “We've only had him for four weeks. Everyone else has been there since October. It was a transition from football, but he's getting there. You can tell he's getting in good shape and retraining his brain to wrestle.

“I expect to see good things from him heading into tournament time.”

The Gators also are in the mix for a team playoff spot from Section 1A-AAA.

Gateway has matches remaining with Armstrong on Wednesday, Plum on Jan. 16 and Penn Hills on Jan. 25.

The top three teams from each subsection earn playoff spots. Gateway split its December section matches, losing to No. 2 Kiski Area before upending Woodland Hills.

Heading into this week, the Cavaliers and Armstrong are 3-0, followed by Gateway and Plum (1-2). Penn Hills is 0-2, while Woodland Hills is 0-3.

“The guys are looking forward to facing Plum,” Sula said. “It's a rival, and the matches are always competitive. Both teams are young and similar in terms of numbers. It will be interesting to see how things turn out.”

Kiski, Plum and Armstrong advanced to the Section 1 team tournament last year, and Kiski and Armstrong moved on to WPIALs.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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