Penn Hills wrestlers make steady progress

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Saturday, January 6, 2018 | 12:30 AM


Penn Hills senior DeShawn Butler has qualified for WPIALs two years in a row. He is looking to become more consistent this season in order to make a deeper run at WPIALs and potentially states.

The change in mentality seems to have worked as Butler placed high at the Eastern Area Invitational and Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic this season.

Butler (13-3) finished fifth last season at the Holiday Classic, held at West Mifflin. This time, he lost to West Mifflin's Gerald Brown by a 3-0 decision in the 285-pound championship bout.

On the road to the final bout, Butler captured pins over Mars' Jeffrey DeSantes and McGuffey's Noah Cline and defeated Keystone Oaks' Tyler Caragein by a 7-2 decision.

“He has been much better on his feet. He had six or seven takedowns in the three matches leading up to the finals, which for him is very good. He has been more active with his leg attacks,” coach Jeremy Packer said.

“He has been working really hard on that, and it's actually showing on the mat. It's not like he's just working on it during practice and not translating over to a match. It's actually translating over.”

Earlier in December, Butler finished fourth at the Eastern Area event after losing to North Allegheny's Derek Devine by a 2-0 decision in the third-place bout.

Butler started the tournament with a pin before losing to the eventual champion, Mt. Lebanon's Nathan Hoaglund, by a 5-4 decision.

Once in the losers' bracket, Butler pinned Kiski School's Nicholas Gularski and Franklin Regional's Dylan Singleton before defeating Altoona's Nate Simmers by a 6-2 decision to earn a spot in the third-place match.

The Indians, who finished 10th in the team standings with only six wrestlers at the Steve DeAugustino Holiday Classic, also received a second-place finish from junior Justin Perkins.

No. 4 Perkins (6-2) lost to Quaker Valley's John Rocco Kazalas by a 3-2 decision in the 132-pound championship bout. On the road to the championship, Perkins won by pin, technical and decision. Last season, Perkins won the 126-pound title at the event.

“We got a lot of bonus points. We got a lot of falls and technical falls,” Packer said. “The six we took were really active, and they worked hard. Everybody won at least one match.”

Senior Luqman Luhujjiddan (195) took fourth at West Mifflin, and sophomore Dom Burden (160) finished fifth.

Freshman Hunter Shields (120) earned two wins at the Holiday Classic, and sophomore Mike Devito (126) earned one win.

Packer has been impressed with the performance from Luhujjiddan (10-8) this season. At the Eastern Area tournament, Luhujjiddan finished in sixth-place after being pinned by DuBois' Iszak Kerner 58 seconds into the fifth-place match.

“He's wrestling with some more urgency. This is his senior season, and we talked to him about this being his last crack at wrestling,” Packer said.

“He is trying to leave it all out there on the mat this year. The results are showing of that attitude and mentality.”

With the limited amount of wrestlers, Packer is having Penn Hills (0-2, 0-2 Section 1-A) focus on individual wrestlers instead of the team.

He will utilize the Allegheny County Tournament on Jan. 19-20 at Fox Chapel and the Brooke Classic on Jan. 26-27 to prepare his wrestlers for the postseason.

“We are going to try to win with what we have on the mat. It's what we have been stressing all year, which is control what you can control for the six minutes that you're out there,” Packer said. “Don't worry about the scoreboard at the end of the night.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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